CAIRO: Go ahead and watch Syriana. Munich? Better you than me. I see enough aggression and violence on a daily basis in the news, and I’d rather enter a movie with the potential to have me rolling through the aisles (I’ve never actually rolled through the aisles, although I understand that the ushers are less-than appreciative of the action) with laughter. Enter The Pink Panther (cue theme music here).
With that said, my wife, a friend of mine and I entered the cinema, hoping the movie would live up to the lofty expectations brought about by the hilarious trailer. Unfortunately, more often than not we find that all of those gut-smashingly funny scenes in the trailer were, in fact, the only gut-smashingly funny scenes in the entire film.
Before discussing the movie, I usually find it best to describe the setting: I was seated three seats in, my wife was to my right and my friend was seated on the isle. Seating plans are often crucial, as for me, the tensest part of any film, be it horror, thriller or documentary, is the moment when I finally discover who is sitting behind and next to me.
It seemed, however, that I was fretting for nothing. As the trailers began, the usher, well, ushered a distinguished looking elderly couple to the seats behind me; prayer number one answered.
It took a number of minutes before those sitting next to me appeared, and there could be no mistaking the cinematic curse that has continuously plagued me since birth; be it crying baby, popcorn pelting adolescent or talkative teenager, it never fails. This time, fate seemed to be working overtime, and had delivered, against all odds, a foreign tour group into the seats next to me. Fate 1; me 0.
After attempting to divulge what language they were in fact talking, and failing miserably I might add, I turned my attention to the screen, where the trailers were nearing their end. I was forced to sit through yet another Amr Diab soda commercial, featuring all-beautiful people driving convertibles through what appears to be Egypt in the mind of an extreme optimist in absolute denial, however, before the movie finally began.
In police-movie fashion, the films’ opening features a typical car chase; or so I thought. When, after taking a sharp corner, Inspector Jacques Clouseau’s (Steve Martin) badly placed police siren slides off of the car and smashes into an innocent elderly lady, I realized that slap-stick comedy though it may be, I was in for an evening of helpless, purely enjoyable laughter.
I honestly don’t know what made me laugh more: The sight of Inspector Clouseau attempting to park a Smart Car (which can probably fit into a Hummer and still have plenty of leg-room) in a massively wide space and still managing to almost demolish the other two cars parked in front and behind him; the completely unexpected ‘falling down a subway opening while attempting to conceal my face with a newspaper’ scene or the fact that the overly-distinguished woman seated behind me was belting out a form of laughter that would have many opera singers signing up for lessons.
That is not to say that the tour group wasn’t giving her a run for her money. At one point, one gentleman, who’s popcorn container was placed precariously on his knee, issued a laugh (a foreign laugh, I might add; you can always tell) that almost provided me with free popcorn for the night. Thankfully, all turned out well.
As the films hero, Clouseau is attempting to locate the stolen Pink Panther diamond; a task assigned to him by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) in the hope that it makes Clouseau appear helpless, thereby boosting Dreyfus’ image when he swoops in and solves the case.
Steve Martin, for his part, will never look the same to me again. Ever since watching him as “Sgt. Bilko he always appeared that way to me, and now he has transformed into Inspector Clouseau. Martin has always been fully suited to the zany trend of comedy, and he filled this role perfectly; his accent, as he would say, “is foony, and his attempt at pronouncing “hamburger has me dreading entering any restaurant, knowing that the impulse may take over and I would spend over an hour trying to order.
I was worried that Martin’s depiction of Clouseau would be too directed toward a younger audience, which, thankfully, it wasn’t, evidenced nowhere more clearly than his defense of renowned singer Xania (Beyonce Knowles), where he states, emphatically, “Stop browbeating her! Can t you see she is sexy?
Beyonce also offers a nice performance; obviously not the films main character, her appearances were scattered, and she appeared well-chosen for the role. Kevin Kline, meanwhile, delivered his usual high-level performance, perfectly pulling off his role as Clouseau’s accidental punching bag.
I’ve seen the original Peter Seller’s Pink Panther series, and although some may argue that this new adaptation strays too far from the original, I believe it does what it is supposed to do. The audience was laughing non-stop, and everywhere you looked, both young and old were having a tremendous time. If you still need more of a push to go watch it, consider this exchange between Clouseau and Gendarme Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno):
“He was found dead. “Was it fatal? “Yes. “How fatal? “Um, completely. “I want to talk to him now.
Incidentally, if you need names next to each sentence to know who said what, you haven’t been paying attention.