The Pink Panther 2 (PG)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Hollywood Interquest, Tinseltown
It's not 10 minutes into The Pink Panther 2 when Steve Martin's Inspector Jacques Clouseau sets a restaurant on fire. He'll do it again toward the film's end and mug, pratfall, juggle and otherwise knock himself senseless throughout the rest of the sequel's 92 minutes, stopping occasionally to analyze a crime or to bleed every last drop of humor out of the first film's decent hamburger-mispronunciation joke.
Martin's 2006 remake of the Peter Sellers' classic may have been widely panned, but if you kept your expectations low, it did offer a few chuckles. (As well as a parade of shocking co-stars: Jean Reno? Kevin Kline? Clive friggin' Owen??) So you might be hoping the comedian's latest paycheck-grab isn't completely shameful, perhaps a light matinee that will prove harmless enough if you're honest about its paint-by-dollar-signs pedigree.
The plot is hardly worth explaining, but here goes: Clouseau, who at the end of the first film won a medal of honor, has been demoted to parking patrol by the chief inspector (John Cleese, taking over for Kline). His next assignment is set to take him out of the country, but the second he crosses France's border, CNN's Christiane Amanpour (!) appears on the news to report that the Pink Panther diamond has been stolen.
Clouseau insists on joining a "dream team" of investigators to crack the case. And, naturally, make an ass of himself. There's not much left of the film to analyze, so instead I'll list a few critical details and let you be the judge:
1. The director, Harald Zwart, previously helmed a pair of films titled Long Flat Balls I and II.
2. The scripters, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, are freshmen writers, though a credit is also given to Martin, who likely offered some guidance when his ego just couldn't sink any lower.
3. Should-know-better, honest-to-God thespians Emily Mortimer and Jean Reno return, this time joined by Jeremy Irons, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia and Lily Tomlin.
4. Tomlin's character an etiquette teacher assigned to introduce Clouseau to political correctness is completely superfluous. As is Aishwarya Rai's detective, who's mostly tasked with looking pretty, though it's difficult to appreciate the World's Most Beautiful Woman when she's buried under Hollywood-homogenizing makeup.
5. Cleese he of the Ministry of Silly Walks is way too classy to replace the more appropriately goofy Kline and seems as if he's actually taking it all seriously.
6. Reno, more of a simpleton this time around, happily spends an evening washing Martin's hair and then they both break out into a little song-and-dance inspired by the pronunciation of "jojoba."
7. Martin gets beaten up by children. (Though, admittedly, it's kinda funny when he later hangs them over a balcony, yelling, "Die, little piglets!")
8. Molina wears a tutu and tiara.
9. Rare, dry lines such as "I had to quit being a Buddhist because I have so much hate" are likely to be ignored by an audience awaiting more pie-in-the-face-type jokes.
10. Aforementioned jokes include Clouseau telling a new investigator, "Let me bring you up to speed. We have nothing. You are now up to speed."
And with that, you, too, are now up to speed. Please don't give Martin any more of your money, at least not for The Pink Panther 2.