Ah yes, the Pink Panther films of the 1960's and 1970's. Peter Sellers, hilarious French accents, pain and destruction gags, the Pink Panther diamond that kept getting stolen, the animated character who appeared in the titles sequence, and that famous theme song by Henry Mancini. Well, in this latest version of the film, clearly the latter five are present, given that Sellers passed away in 1980. Despite being identically titled to the original 1964 movie, this is clearly a Pink Panther movie for the current generation and technology, given the use of cellphones and references to the Internet and email.
The story? A French football coach, Yves Gluant, the owner of the Pink Panther diamond, is murdered after the French score the winning goal, the giant diamond which was shown on his fist on the stadium's giant screen TV, missing. Chief Inspector Dreyfus sees this as the chance to become a winner and not merely a nominee for the French medal of honour. He plans to have a total nincompoop in charge of a bogus investigation, while Dreyfus himself conducts the real one with smarter people. Guess who's in charge of the bogus one?
The suspects range from Bizu, a football player whose girlfriend, pop singer Xania, was stolen by Gluant. Then there's Raymond Leroq, the casino owner whom Gluant went into a partnership with, but whose gambling habit irritated Leroq. Xania, played with bootyliciousness by Beyonce Knowles, is well aware that Clouseau (Steve Martin) is gaga at the sight of her and uses her feminine wiles to... well, maybe divert suspicion?
Clouseau is given help in the form of Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno), someone who is used to following orders. However, during the investigation, it's apparent that he is more competent than his superior. And Nicole the secretary gives him encouragement. Oh, and there's some unexpected help from a British agent who's one digit away from being on top.
The slapstick gags that garnered many a giggle or howl are present. As a nod to Sellers' Clouseau getting his hand stuck in a globe in the first PP movie, Martin's Clouseau sends the globe rolling down the stairs and into the street until it causes some cyclists to crash. And the pain gags, often at Dreyfus's expense are just as painful, such as a scene where Clouseau flips open his ID badge, only to have the badge fly out and pierce Dreyfus's chest. Hoewver, Kato, the Chinese manservant who attacked Clouseau randomly to keep the detective on his toes, is conspicuous by his absence. Here, it's Clouseau who randomly attacks Ponton, only to realize his subordinate is really on his toes.
Martin, who also has co-screenplay writing credit, manages the bogus French accent well, and he doesn't fare too badly as Clouseau, but his mannerisms can be overdone, and gags that are meant to be funny misfire. His failure to pronounce the word "hamburger" leads to an airport security sequence mirroring that of the Bean movie-what's the point?
One notable difference is the Dreyfus-Clouseau relationship. Whereas from A Shot In The Dark, Herbert Lom's Dreyfus was driven to insanity and hated Clouseau, Kevin Kline's Dreyfus is a more rational schemer and gloryseeker trying to get the glory he deserves. Those wild eyes and that smile are there, but he's not the over-the-top psychopath he was in A Fish Called Wanda.
While A Shot In The Dark and The Pink Panther Strikes Again stand as classics in the series, this one is at least better than Revenge of the Pink Panther and the lamentable Sellers-less Curse of the Pink Panther with Ted Wasson.