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The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther

Total Film

April 2006

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Director Shawn Levy
Starring Steve Martin, Beyoncé Knowles, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer
Cert PG

Rating **

Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin) is a prize boob with inept deductive powers and hazardous-to-your-health reflexes. Which is why Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) hires him to solve the murder of the national football coach (Jason Statham) and the theft of his fabled Pink Panther diamond. With Clouseau around, the pompous bureaucrat can save the day and win France’s prestigious Medal of Honour...

At least it starts well, with Henry Mancini's funky-cool theme playing over some animated Panther merriment. And casting Martin as Inspector Clouseau was never going to incite the lamentations of the Sellers faithful in the way that, say, Chris Tucker would have (one bright spark's idea when MGM first mooted liberating the Gallic bumbler from the studio gulag, where he'd been banished after 1993's dire Son Of The Pink Panther).

But even the greatest are only as hilarious as their material, and what should have been a refresher course in Martin's body-popping genius is dispiritingly lame. Mainly, it's a 93- minute joke about ow foonay ze French accent ees. The Panther series has always skewered Gallic elocution, but it had novelty value when Peter Sellers did it over 40 years ago. Having said that, it does spawn the film's funniest sequence, when Clouseau gets tuition from an American voice coach: “Ah wood lack tu byeeee un amborgerre.”

Apart from that, it's one strained sight gag after another, while Kline struggles vainly to stop his accent from fleeing back across the Atlantic and Jean Reno appears as the token Frenchman, his deadpan about as amusing as a Le Pen rally at the Notting Hill Carnival. Beyoncé brings the bling and cleavage as vixenish pop star Xania, although, sexy as she is, she was probably in danger of being moved around by the set-dressers during the shoot. At least she delivers a belting musical number, which also serves as a blatant appeal for the next Bond theme tune gig. On the flip side, early 007 frontrunner Clive Owen gives a two-fingered salute to the Bond braintrust for bypassing him in a weakly parodic sketch as Agent 006.

Martin said he was desperate to avoid “just doing a rehash of a genius”, and although the zany persona of yore does rear its head, he's mostly stuck in a dimwitted rut. Sellers played the pratfalling detective five times, but on the evidence here, Martin's destined to remain a one-Clouseau wonder.

Despite Martin's efforts, this is cruelly unfunny. And that's saying something for a gagfest painted with such broad brushstrokes.

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