MOVIE REVIEW: The Pink Panther 2

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For those of you wondering why talented actors like Steve Martin, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin and Jean Reno would get involved with a project like “The Pink Panther 2,” there’s an instructive moment in the sixth season of “The Simpsons.”

Movie critic Jay Sherman (voiced by Jon Lovitz) is interviewing Rainier Wolfcastle, Springfield’s resident movie star and Arnold Schwarzenegger sound-alike. After screening a clip from Rainier’s atrocious new movie, which cost $80 million to make, Jay asks him how he sleeps at night.

“On top of a pile of money, with many beautiful ladies,” the star replies.

That cash mattress helps explain why Mr. Martin would abandon all artistic principle to spend 90 minutes sporting the worst French accent ever heard outside of an elementary school production of “Les Mis.”

It helps explain why Mr. Garcia and Mr. Molina (Academy Award and British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award nominees, respectively) would form two-thirds of a three stooges act for the film’s closing 15 minutes, performing pratfalls and throwing their faces into cakes for few to no laughs.

It helps explain why Mr. Reno, the talented French character actor, would reduce himself to shampooing Inspector Jacques Clouseau’s hair and doing a jig around the inspector’s bachelor pad. It helps explain why Miss Tomlin would play a caricature of a politically correct feminist shrew whose only interest is sucking the fun out of Clouseau’s life.

Mr. Martin stars as Clouseau, the bumbling French detective who made his name by recovering the Pink Panther, an exquisite gem. He has been assigned to an international squad of detectives representing Italy (Vicenzo, played by Mr. Garcia), Britain (Pepperidge, played by Mr. Molina) and Japan (Kenji, played by Yuki Matsuzaki).

America apparently saw this train wreck coming and steered clear.

Their goal? To catch the Tornado, a thief of rare and valuable artifacts. Europe-hopping ensues, restaurants are burned to the ground, love interests are pursued, and the case is solved in the most nonsensical manner possible.

“The Pink Panther 2” is intended as an inoffensive family comedy, and in that it (kind of) succeeds: Little kids will enjoy seeing Mr. Martin pull a silly face, there’s little in the way of violence, and the double entendres between Clouseau and his assistant Nicole (Emily Mortimer) will go over their heads.

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that anyone over the age of about 10 will find much to cheer in this film, and the children’s adult chaperones likely will just be depressed by seeing a once-cutting-edge wit like Mr. Martin lowering himself to shtick like this.

TITLE: “The Pink Panther 2”

RATING: PG (Suggestive humor, brief mild language and action)

CREDITS: Written by Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber and Steve Martin; directed by Harald Zwart

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