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Surprisingly enjoyable if you're in a silly and undemanding mood
on 25 October 2011
Having succeeded at the box-office where Alan Arkin, Ted Wass and Roberto Begnini failed, it wasn't too surprising that Steve Martin would return for a sequel to his 2006 Pink Panther, but it's a far from promising sign for this outing that where each of the previous films had a proper title, even if it was a simple matter of adding a word like Return, Revenge or Trail to the title, the best they could do here was stick a `2' on the end. Yet overall, The Pink Panther 2 turns out to be an improvement both on Martin's first outing and Blake Edwards' increasingly desperate non-Peter Sellers sequels in the 80s and 90s.
Some problems from the first film have been addressed - Kevin Kline's unmemorable Inspector Dreyfus' has been replaced by a more frustrated but still not homicidal John Cleese, Jean Reno's sidekick has a bit more to do this time and new director Harold Zwart is a bit better at staging the pratfalls than Shawn Levy even if he can't disguise some very obvious stunt doubling - while others persist - Martin still doesn't have much of a grip on the character and his accent still isn't funny. The first couple of reels aren't very promising. Part of the problem is that where Sellers realised the joke was that Clouseau not only didn't realise he was an idiot but actually thought he was cool as well as brilliant, his Clouseau isn't played straight enough, with too much face pulling to emphasise it's a comedy but too often coming across like the kind of performance in children's television shows that even children find patronising. It's hard to tell whether he gets better or you just get used to him as the material improves, but things pick up immensely once the plot kicks into gear and Clouseau finds himself the least qualified member of a dream team of international experts tracking down a master criminal: Andy Garcia's Italian Lothario with designs on Clouseau's sweetheart (Emily Mortimer), Alfred Molina's British deductive genius, Yuki Matsuzaki's barely developed Japanese computer expert and Aishwarya Rai's crime writer.
As usual the plot's just a springboard for the comic set pieces which see the Pope humiliated, Clouseau receiving political correctness seminars from Lily Tomlin, fending off surprise karate attacks from Jean Reno's children and destroying Italian restaurants, providing a surprisingly decent smile count even if belly laughs are rarely to be found. There's one neat bit of juggling with wine bottles (real in Martin's case, CGI-enhanced in the case of the extras) and a nicely executed closed circuit camera sequence that owes more than a little to Martin's encounter with the guard dogs in Father of the Bride that are particular standouts, but for the most part this is more undemandingly pleasant than hysterically funny - more Sunday afternoon fare than Saturday night special.
The film's failure at the box-office (it took less than half as much as its 2006 predecessor) is reflected in the threadbare extras package: where its predecessor got a director's audio commentary, lengthy deleted scenes (and with Johnny Hallyday only appearing briefly in one scene with Jeremy Irons in the sequel, it's quite possible that if it had been more successful we'd have had some here as well), six featurettes and a couple of music videos, this has to settle for a gag reel and a couple of featurettes. The widescreen transfer is adequate, but the overlit children's book style visuals don't really benefit much from a Blu-ray transfer so this is one you won't be losing out on much if you stick to the DVD release.