Movie Review: The Pink Panther 2
By Matthew Huntley
February 19, 2009

Hey, what Steve Martin does in the privacy of his own home...

The trailer for The Pink Panther 2 offered little hope the movie would have any redeeming qualities. It was loud, obnoxious and caused me to shudder at the idea Steve Martin would attach his name to such a dreadful sequel. But, and perhaps this was due to my exceedingly low expectations, the movie amused me. For all its silliness and stupidity, I was entertained for 92 minutes, and it wasn't a long 92 minutes, but more the brisk kind. That's the element of surprise for you and proof you should never judge a book by its cover (or a movie by its trailer).

It wouldn't have been terribly hard for The Pink Panther 2 to top the original as far as quality or humor (the first movie lacked an edge and freshness), but luckily The Pink Panther 2 isn't just an improvement on a bad movie - it genuinely had me laughing and smiling all on its own. At the end of the day, why demand more from a slapstick spy comedy?

Once again, France's beloved national diamond, the Pink Panther, has been stolen, along with other priceless artifacts from around the world (the Magna Carta from Britain; the Imperial Sword from Japan). Each of these was snatched up by the mysterious thief who calls himself (or herself) "The Tornado," who's come out of retirement after ten years and leaves a calling card to prove it.

The world's leading nations form a Dream Team comprised of their best detectives to solve the case and track down the invaluable goods. France's Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese) is reluctant to put Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Martin) on the team, fearing national embarrassment. But Clouseau, who's been reduced to handing out parking violations, is clearly the best man for the job. He joins the revered Vicenzo Brancaleone (Andy Garcia) from Italy, Randall Pepperidge from Britain, Kenji from Japan (Yuki Matsuzaki) and Sonia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) from India. Returning as Clouseau's partner is Jean Reno as Ponto. Reno proves yet again that, despite playing such serious characters most of the time, he can be a great comedic talent.

As a comedy, The Pink Panther 2 is stupid but pleasant, and there are enough big laughs in it to fend off its predictability. In one of the funniest and most physically clever scenes, Clouseau takes his secret love, Nicole (Emily Mortimer), out for a romantic evening in Rome, which quickly turns into an inspired wine bottle juggling act. It was also amusing to watch the Dream Team try and cover up Clouseau sneaking around the house of one of their primary suspects (Jeremy Irons).

All these moments, including a zippy dialogue exchange between Clouseau and Pepperidge as they both show off their talents for perception, as well as Lily Tomlin as a sexual harassment counselor, made me laugh and it was especially funny to think of all the actors trying to keep a straight face during their scenes. Martin doesn't appear to be trying as hard this time around and I enjoyed the confidence he brings to Clouseau and the way he stands up for himself in front of the other inspectors. This time, we find ourselves liking his character instead of shaking our heads and rolling our eyes at him.

Most of the time, it's the movie that fails to live up to the trailer, but in the case of The Pink Panther 2, it's the trailer that undermines the movie. It's a shame, too, because a lot of people will probably ignore the movie because of it. There's still a whole list of better movies to see, but this one is jolly, silly and moronic in an entertaining way. It's in the spirit of the first Austin Powers, which itself sort of drew from Blake Edwards' original Pink Panther series starring Peter Sellers - we laugh at the antics of the characters instead of growing frustrated with them.