The Pink Panther 2: Steve Martin Falls Over A Lot
If watching Steve Martin fall over floats your boat, then your boat will be in the stratosphere after watching The Pink Panther 2. If you desire a script with wit, multi-dimensional characters, and a clever plot, look elsewhere. The plot is an excuse for Steve Martin to fall onto things, under things, and accidentally hurt himself and others non-stop for 85 minutes. While the film is more or less inoffensive for the younger crowd– no fart or poop jokes, not too many blatant sexual innuendos– there’s nothing for those who enjoy the old series. It’s painless but brainless.
A thief called The Tornado is stealing precious artifacts across the globe. The film tries to be clever by having the thief leave a calling card in the resident language of the country he’s stealing from, but the guards who come in and announce what has been stolen all speak English, making the joke confusing. Clouseau has been assigned to parking meter duty, but for some inexplicable reason is assigned to a dream team to find these artifacts. The British and Italian detectives are played gamely by Alfred Molina and Andy Garcia, given absolutely nothing to do other than react when Clouseau does or says something stupid. Hijinks ensue. Things go wrong. Clouseau is kicked off the dream team. He discovers something the dream team missed. He catches the bad guy. Everyone celebrates Clouseau. Alfred Molina puts on a ballerina tutu (no, you did not read that incorrectly).
What works in this film? On rare occasion, there are some clever wordplays akin to the original. The best thing about Clouseau is that he’s clueless but innocent, not that he constantly falls into things while mugging to the camera. Peter Sellers was always able to give Clouseau some dimension, some heart. Steve Martin plays the character as a cartoon, someone who can be mocked. This saddens me, since Steve Martin is one of my comedy heroes, and his writing is almost always brilliant– and sure enough, his turns of phrases save a few jokes in this film. However, they cannot cover up that he is just wrong for this part. Same for John Cleese, who is here to collect a check and can’t even reach the energy of Kevin Kline’s performance last time, let alone the brilliant Herbert Lom. Lily Tomlin’s here as well with nothing to do other than allow the press release to state it’s her first film with Martin since All Of Me. A couple of the physical gags work– such as when Martin runs across a piano and it plays the Pink Panther theme’s four chords– and the credits sequence is an amusing throwback. Finally, Emily Mortimer brings a sweetness to Nicole, Martin’s inevitable (and unbelievable) love interest.
Unfortunately, nothing is enough. The direction by Harald Zwart is conducted as well as you’d expect from the man who brought you Agent Cody Banks and One Night at McCool’s (this is also the man bringing us the Karate Kid remake… oy). The film is summed up nicely in an early gag. Steve Martin is hit by a car, but he doesn’t fall over. He does not even fly across the road. We cut back to a shot of the city, and Steve Martin is literally propelled by this car to fly across the entire city. That is the nature of this film– it can’t be grounded with things like wit and wordplay. And people can’t just fall– they must fall in the craziest and cartooniest of manners. This will play well for children who don’t know what it looks like when people actually fall over, but are familiar with how their Nicktoon characters respond. For people who think that Steve Martin falling over just isn’t necessarily worth a laugh on its own? You may be in for a loooong 85 minutes. At least you get to see Alfred Molina in a ballerina tutu.
Sidenote: Jeremy Irons also has a small role. If you told me you were seeing a film with Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, Jeremy Irons, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, and Emily Mortimer, I’d think it sounds amazing and might assume you were seeing some new fantastic Robert Altman-esque dramedy. Instead, we get this. Thanks, Hollywood, for squandering this gathering of talent!