Martin stars in im-purr-fect film

Betsy Milarcik

Logic dictates that when a movie is remade, the new version should be better than the original. Luckily, all moviegoers are saved from such predictability in their lives by the constant resistance of logic that filmmakers seem to enjoy so much. Such is the case with “The Pink Panther,” a remake of a film of the same name from 1963 following an oblivious inspector in pursuit of the stolen Pink Panther diamond. When a major soccer figure is murdered and the diamond is swiped from his hand, ambitious Police Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) assigns the phenomenally klutzy Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Steve Martin) to the case, hoping that while the media watches Clouseau follow the wrong suspects, Dreyfus can solve the crime out of the eye of the public. Needless to say, madness and zany antics abound, sometimes to the point of tedium and idiocy.

The plot of “The Pink Panther” was of minimal importance to the screenwriters, a secondary factor that exists simply to give Steve Martin an environment in which to clown around. The film is essentially an hour and a half of slapstick gags, one fired after another in rapid succession.

This doesn’t necessarily make for a bad viewing experience, simply for a bad movie. While most of the gags are rather trite and uninteresting, a few of them are so absurd that they become surprisingly enjoyable. “The Pink Panther” knows that it is ridiculous and runs with that fact, an approach that usually works to the film’s advantage.

The reason that a shoddily crafted film is able to survive on feeble physical comedy is because of the film’s star, the illustrious Steve Martin. With his absurd French accent and constantly widening eyes, Martin takes his role to appear ridiculous quite seriously. He manages to make worthless moments count, such as with his comical mispronunciation of the word “hamburger” as “aambagaa.” Martin’s amusing performance is unfortunately negated by the incredibly flat performances of every other actor in the film. Many may think I refer to Beyoncé Knowles, who plays the murder victim’s girlfriend, and they wouldn’t be wrong. There is not much room for creativity in Knowles’s role, a real life singer who now boldly portrays a singer on the big screen. Although Knowles does not sparkle, her role could have been much worse. Low expectations for Knowles act in her favor, making her mediocre performance acceptable. This blessing for Knowles is a curse for Kevin Kline; high expectations for Kline make his shoddy performance seem especially weak. While Martin can gallivant about in a silly mustache and an elaborate accent with ease, Kline appears awkward in this guise. It may be that he is too lofty of an actor for this piece of fluff. Sophistication does not sit well with any portion of this film, so be sure not to expect the same quality that the original version offers. In fact, the safest bet would be to not expect any quality from “The Pink Panther” at all. Perhaps with lowered expectations, you’ll be able to find some fun in what is purely a silly film.