The Pink Panther (MGM, PG)

Crime dramas dominate the ratings and popular culture, yet there hasn’t been a successful crime spoof since Naked Gun.

 

Steve Martin and Jean Reno in MGM/Columbia Pictures’ The Pink Panther

If anyone wants to know why Hollywood is faltering, why weekly box office receipts are plunging, why people are spending millions on home theaters, DVDs, and TiVo that they used to spend at the movies, the answer is simple: It is to avoid dreck like Steve Martin’s new film The Pink Panther. There is simply nothing to recommend in this movie. The performances are bad, the accents atrocious, the plot nonexistent. There is no romance. Hell, Beyonce Knowles in slinky outfits can’t add sex appeal. Even the locations and sets look prefabbed and second-rate. No one should waste their precious time on this film.

Every comedy bit and more than a few of the jokes are recycled for the tenth time from earlier films. The moment Martin and his cohorts come to visit an injured Kevin Kline in his hospital bed, I knew wacky hijinks would ensue. Too bad they are the same, exact wacky hijinks that ensued when Leslie Nielsen visited O.J. Simpson in the hospital in The Naked Gun in 1988.

It is sad when one thinks of the missed opportunity here: Steve Martin—one of the top comic talents (writing and acting, verbal and physical comedy); a fantastic supporting cast (Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Kristin Chenoweth); a huge star (Beyonce Knowles) to give demographic crossover appeal; Henry Mancini’s brilliant, mood-setting score; and the built-in goodwill of a beloved franchise. The possibilities were endless. Just one idea: Inspector Clouseau is a bumbling detective. Crime dramas dominate the ratings and popular culture, yet there hasn’t been a successful crime spoof since the aforementioned Naked Gun. How about skewering the relentlessly formulaic plots and setups of Law & Order (or its two spin-offs) or CSI (or its two spin-offs)? Why is it that Martin’s brilliant 1987 comedy Roxanne made better use out of the happenstance that the main character was a fireman than Pink Panther does of Clouseau’s being a detective, when this film is nominally a detective comedy?

The most insulting thing is the realization that had this limp screenplay been entitled Inspector Dumbass it would never have been made. Instead, Hollywood put the cart before the horse and recruited this big cast, firing up its marketing engine on the basis of the attractiveness of the franchise name…and only then hired a hack screenwriter to come up with some words to spew out of the mouths of the pretty people on screen. This is a common occurrence in Hollywood, and one that has slowly (or quickly) ruined mainstream studio movies.

Of course, after the successes of the less-than-inspired Bringing Down the House and Cheaper by the Dozen (and Cheaper by the Dozen 2—yikes!), we the movie-going public have rewarded Martin and his studio bosses. Do yourself a favor: Send Hollywood a message, stay at home this weekend and rent Roxanne, Ghostbusters, The Naked Gun, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, or any one of dozens of superior and actually funny comedies that you could come up with off the top of your head. Then, visit www.mgm.com/help.do and let the fine folks at MGM know what you did and why you did it.

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