A famous French soccer coach is murdered with a poison dart, and his priceless diamond ring, the Pink Panther, is stolen. On the case is the incompetent Inspector Clouseau (Martin) but only because Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kline) wants him to fail, so h
Expectations are strange things. Set them too high and anything disappoints; lower them enough and everything impresses. Seeing that the director/star team behind Cheaper By The Dozen were to flog the dead kitty that is the Pink Panther franchise, Empire’s expectations flatlined. And so it is that we have a movie so much better than we expected that it’s frustrating it didn’t manage to be far better than it is.
What quickly becomes apparent is that Steve Martin is the ideal heir to Peter Sellers; after all, Clouseau is an arrogant idiot, the very persona Martin mastered back in his Wild And Crazy days. With Steve himself having contributed to the script, there are flashes of the Martin of old here; one scene, which sees Clouseau and sidekick Ponton (Jean Reno) in wallpaper-camouflage bodysuits, could have come straight out of The Man With Two Brains. Sadly, though, director Levy causes Martin to waste his comedic inheritance.
The original Panthers were no masterpieces, but they knew how to spin out a set-piece. Here we get a pummelling of one-note slapstick gags, some hit, most miss. Add a miscast Dreyfus (Kline can’t play it straight enough) and a stifled yawn of a crime mystery, and you’re left with a movie whose good moments only highlight the barely-okayness of everything else.
With a better story, director and support cast, Martin could have made Clouseau his own. Still, its not as bad as the one with Roberto Benigni