Women On Film – “Pink Panther 2” – Betsy Pickle reviews

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Green is the new pink. At any rate, it’s the color evoked by “The Pink Panther 2.” Anyone who watches this dismal attempt at comedy is sure to feel sick afterward, if not during.

A low point for lowbrow movies, the new “Pink Panther” is bad on numerous levels. For starters, it’s not funny. Steve Martin, reprising his role as inept French police inspector Jacques Clouseau, is manic and energetic, but his efforts are irritating, not amusing. Martin’s 2006 first take on Clouseau, a revisiting of the classic Peter Sellers character, was vapid enough. This time Martin revokes the goodwill he’s earned over his long career by betraying viewers with his bumbling, gauche and unlikable idiot of a detective.

Not only does Martin, who co-wrote the script, waste our precious disposable income and valuable entertainment time, but he also squanders the talents of a first-rate cast. He takes down the drain with him Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Emily Mortimer, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, John Cleese, Lily Tomlin and Jeremy Irons. Sure, even respectable actors have to pay the mortgage with lesser projects at times, but must they be forced to foot the bill with currency made from used toilet paper?

The final blow is the degradation to different cultures and to women that passes for humor in the movie. It’s hard to believe that the movie industry’s ratings board allowed the offensive language and innuendo – both mind-numbingly stupid – to get by with a PG rating. Parents should be warned that “PP2” contains strongly negative behavior that may seem harmless onscreen but could prove insidious as an anti-life lesson.

In “The Pink Panther 2,” someone is stealing the world’s priceless treasures: the Magna Carta in Great Britain, the Shroud of Turin in Italy, the Imperial Sword in Japan. Each crime scene has been bereft of clues save one – a calling card from the Tornado, a mysterious and unidentified thief who has been out of action for several years.

French officials fear that the Tornado’s next target will be the Pink Panther Diamond, which Clouseau rescued in the first film. Under orders, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Cleese) reluctantly reassigns Clouseau from parking-meter duty to an international dream team of detectives that includes Pepperidge (Molina) from Britain, Vicenzo (Garcia) from Italy and Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki) from Japan. Clouseau’s colleague Nicole (Mortimer) comes on board to assist the team, which is completed with the addition of Sonia (Rai Bachchan), a crime writer who is the world’s foremost expert on the Tornado.

The team’s top suspect is Avellaneda (Irons), an upscale art dealer and fence linked to the Tornado. But with Clouseau at work, it’s hard to hang on to a single clue that will advance the investigation.

It’s painful to watch Martin’s frantic tries at slapstick. Like the plot, they are so predictable and unimaginative that every fumble and fall feels heavy-handed. The only scene that achieves any comic effervescence is the one in which Clouseau recruits an entire restaurant to juggle expensive bottles of wine with him, and even that has a sour ending.

Many scenes ooze embarrassment for Martin and his co-stars, but the worst have to be Clouseau’s sessions with Mrs. Berenger (Tomlin), an American who is working with the French police as an expert on political correctness (one assumes the concept is intended as a joke). Clouseau has been singled out as a prime offender, but Berenger’s training makes him even worse than before..

Tomlin’s character and subplot are unnecessary filler. It feels as though Martin tacked on the part to give his old friend and “All of Me” co-star something to do; the result might have seemed fresh and funny when he and Tomlin were starting out in the 1960s but now feels incredibly dated and disturbing. Clouseau’s racial slurs are generations out of synch, and his trumped-up objectification of women is inexcusable, considering the film’s rating and its mostly younger target audience.

Director Harald Zwart (“One Night at McCool’s”) and screenwriters Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber and Martin should be ashamed of the politically incorrect, entertainment-allergic and comedy-depleted work they have wrought. There’s no rainbow in the world that would welcome this pink mess into its stripes.

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Betsy Pickle

Betsy Pickle is a freelance film critic and journalist. She was the film critic at the Knoxville News Sentinel from May 1985 to November 2008. A Knoxville native, she graduated from the University of Tennessee with a B.S. in communications. In 1992, Betsy co-founded the Southeastern Film Critics Association, a group that has grown to more than 40 members in nine states. She served as SEFCA's president 2001-2004. She is a past member of the advisory council of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission and has served as a judge at the Nashville Film Festival, the Asheville Film Festival and the late and lamented Valleyfest Film Festival. Her reviews and features have appeared in newspapers from Atlanta to Anchorage and Stuart, Fla., to Sacramento, Calif.