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The Pink Panther Starring: Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Jean Reno, Emily Mortimer, Henry Czerny, Beyonce Knowles and William Abadie Director: Shawn Levy Writers: Len Blum & Michael Saltzman (Story); Len Blum & Steve Martin (Screenplay) Music: Christopher Beck DVD: Rs. 599Many moons ago, the inimitable Peter Sellers regaled us with his portrayal of the bumbling French detective Inspector Clouseau. He was so good that a number of people attempted recreating Clouseau. Last Year American comedian Steve Martin also tried his hand at being Jacques Clouseau but was not a patch on the original. Peter Sellers was a standout comedian. Who can forget his role in “Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying about the Bomb”? Or his short, but superb, role as Dr Pratt in “The Wrong Box”? So what does Steve Martin do to raise some laughs as the reincarnation of Jacques Clouseau? He releases his flatulence in a supposedly sound proof chamber to have the giggly and embarrassed kids tittering with delight. He almost burns down the bathroom in the Waldorf Astoria searching for a vial of Viagra and he makes an ass of himself having lessons in American English with a dialogue instructor.

“The Pink Panther” is a loose attempt in trying to get some of the original characters of the 70s and 80s from the Pink Panther series and rehash them in a comedy of our times. It is a film about the murder of a football coach in full view of an audience of thousands and the disappearance of the Pink Panther diamond from the coach’s ring finger. (Wonder whether the recent incident of President George Bush’s missing wristwatch had anything to do with Pink Panther)

As in the previous Pink Panther series, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) desperately wanting the Medal of Honour, assigns the bumbling Clouseau (Steve Martin) on the case hoping to work secretly at solving it himself. Clouseau aided by a series of good fortune (006’s capturing of the Gas Bandits in a casino) and a bit of his own sleuthing manages to upstage Dreyfus and win the medal of honour himself.

Some minor deviations in the remake include an assistant for Clouseau, Ponton (Jean Reno) who does the not now Cato routine with the roles reversed. Ponton is supposed to ward off Clouseau’s sudden attacks to show his heightened preparedness. Needless to say Ponton is always the winner in these attacks.

To be fair, there are some moments of genuine laughter in the film. Steve Martin and Jean Reno dancing in camouflage body stockings make for some good laughs as does the customs officer’s arrest of Clouseau in America. Beyonce Knowles (Xania) is as wooden as they come and Steve Martin’s way of speaking like a Frenchman is nowhere near Sellers’ diction. (Remember the famous line ….. vair iz de lissonce for de mingi? That was Sellers asking the organ grinder—Where is the licence for the monkey?)

But one can’t help agreeing with The Observer’s review that it is a laughless francophobic comedy.

D. RAVI SHANKAR

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