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THE PINK PANTHER (2006)

Director: Shawn Levy

Screenplay: Steve Martin and Len Blum
Based on the Pink Panther Films by Blake Edwards

Producer: Robert Simonds

Editors: George Folsey, Jr. and Brad E. Wilhite

Cast: Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Kevin Kline, Beyonce Knowles, Emily Mortimer

Color, approx 93 minutes
MPAA Classification: PG

Genre: Comedy/Crime

Reviewed by Larry Jung
(February 2006)

I enjoyed Steve Martinís THE PINK PANTHER. I recommend it to fans of Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, and Jean Reno. For me, this movie stands independent from the PINK PANTHER movies starring Peter Sellers. It is not homage to the comic genius of Peter Sellers. It is not a parody either. Steve Martin and Shawn Levy have accomplished the difficult creative task of adapting without slavish imitation or ignoring the essence of the PINK PANTHER movies. Peter Sellers and Steve Martin are master practitioners of physical slapstick. But Martin does not make the error of trying to compete with Peter Sellerís performance.

Martinís performance as the bumbling, clumsy, clueless Inspector Clouseau is both outrageously funny and touching. Martin has a finely tuned sense of how far to go and how long to carry a gag. He is so sure of his craft that he doesnít have to go on and on for fear the audience wonít get the joke.The movie doesnít play down to the audience, which is refreshing particularly in Hollywood comedies in recent years.

The supporting cast is superb. Kevin Kline plays Inspector Dreyfus, Clouseauís arch enemy. Himself a master at comedy (see A FISH CALL WANDA and PIRATES OF PENZANCE), Kline plays the perfect straight man for Martinís brand of slapstick. Jean Reno plays Ponton, Clouseauís newly assigned detective partner. Ponton is the solid, workmanlike partner Clouseau desperately needs to survive the big city, big politics, and the bad guys. Renoís stolid Frenchman is also the perfect straight man for Clouseau. In addition, Ponton is "everyman." He sees through the lies and deceptions all around him. (Poor Clouseau has pure motives but his methods are outrageously ludicrous and seemingly ineffective.) That includes Inspector Dreyfuss, who is obsessed with winning the French Medal of Honor after seven unsuccessful nominations and willing to cheat, lie and steal.

The murder mystery is really incidental. The movie is about how Clouseau, Dreyfus, Nicole (Clouseauís office manager), and others deal with their own distorted views of their personal worth and value. The naÔve, bumbling, optimistic, and clueless Clouseau in the end teaches Ponton and the rest of us a little something about the greater mystery in ourselves. Credit for that goes to Steve Martin as the scriptwriter.

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