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Monday, February 09, 2009

Pink Panther 2 (The)

My first boyfriend was named Steven. I was 16 at the time and working at Disneyland as was he, and I dreamed that we would be together forever. The trouble is he hadn’t even met me at the time. We didn’t have elaborate words like “stalker” back in those days but I made it a point to be just about everywhere Steven was whenever I had a break. Unfortunately, I was working as a guide through the Monsanto “House of the Future” in Tomorrowland while my sweetheart was appearing as part of the “Golden Horseshoe Review” in Frontierland, so when I had a break it was a mad dash through the underground tunnels to get out of my costume and into street clothes just to emerge in Frontierland with the hope of catching my Steven on-stage, or better yet, loitering in the saloon between shows. Not that I could actually go up to him and engage in conversation with the guy. I mean, the guy was at least ten years older than me, and he would surely think I was just a kid, but he had the most beautiful blue eyes and silky black hair. That was my favorite combination then, and still is, when looking at a man. I call it the “Christopher Reeve” effect for those who don’t understand because who could have been a more gorgeous example than the late actor, who, as Superman, could cause anybody’s knees to go weak. I’d just sit innocently at a table or stool near him and furtively ogle those beautiful blue eyes from afar.

My friends Mona and Norman told me Steven was a loser because he had a big nose and he was a complete nerd. After all, he was “old” and still worked at Disneyland and worse yet, he told bad jokes and made his living playing the banjo.
There was nothing groovy about the banjo and there never would be.

That last bit may have proved to be prophetic, but I’m not sure Mona knew just what she was saying when she asked “Why would you ever want to date The Jerk anyway? For all you know, he could just be one of those Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that ask you to take a Leap of Faith and the next thing you know your dreams are shattered and you’re left a common Shopgirl and a Baby Mama to boot.”

Ten years later, I remember watching "The Smothers Brothers Show" and there was
my first crush, the one who was too old, too nerdy, and too dull for a wild child like me ~ at least according to my
friends. Now he was yucking it up, making the big bucks, and asking people “to get small.” His hair had gone prematurely white, but he was as adorable as ever. I wished I had listened to my heart and at least talked to him way back when instead of listening to my “friends,” both of whom I’d lost touch with as soon as I left my job at Disneyland. Bitches. If I’d ignored them I’m sure I could be Steve Martin’s bitter ex-wife by now, lounging by the pool at my house in the Hills, counting my alimony money while I healed from my latest facelift and boob job.

Instead, I’m stuck with my wrinkles and sagging C-cups going to the Cineplex to see Steve in
The Pink Panther 2, which opened this past weekend. The big question I have is why? Not ‘why did I go,’ but why did they make it? This has to be the most unnecessary sequel of this millennium. Somewhere in the ether Peter Sellers’ spirit is weeping.

Sellers’ played Inspector Clouseau in the original six Pink Panther films from 1963 – 1982, and that legacy has been pretty much destroyed since with horrible “reimaginings,” including a potential re-launch of the series starring Ted Wass as a bumbling American detective (Curse of the Pink Panther) which flopped big-time and was then followed by another stink-o effort starring Roberto Begnini as Clouseau’s bastard child (Son of the Pink Panther). When Martin took over as the Inspector in 2006’s whole new reworking of the original, simply once again titled The Pink Panther he was smart enough at playing the fool to include a major draw, superstar singer Beyonce Knowles, in his cast to attract the under-thirty crowd, who had probably never heard of the original series.

So now comes that oh-so-cleverly titled
The Pink Panther 2 with Martin back as the Inspector, but Knowles is nowhere in sight. Neither is original remake co-star Kevin Kline, inexplicably replaced by John Cleese (The Day the Earth Stood Still) as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Clouseau’s long-suffering supervisor. Only Emily Mortimer (Transsiberian) and Jean Reno (Flyboys) return with Martin, Mortimer reprising her role as Dreyfus’ swooning secretary, Nicole, who only has eyes for Clouseau, and Reno as Ponton, Clouseau’s harried associate, who inevitably takes many a punch or fall meant for the Inspector.

As with The Pink Panther, the enormous gem is stolen once again, but this time it is only one of a handful of world treasures, including the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, and the Imperial Sword of Japan, that are taken, all swiped by a card-carrying (and leaving) master-criminal calling himself The Tornado. Because of the international realm of the crimes, a “dream team” of criminologists is assembled to pursue The Tornado, including Clouseau of France, Vincenzo (Andy Garcia; Beverly Hills Chihuahua) from Italy, Pepperidge (Alfred Molina; Lessons in Self-Defense) representing Great Britain, and Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki; The 8th Samurai) of Japan. The beautiful Sonia (Aishwarya Rai; The Last Legion) also joins their group as a fifth member, representing I’m not sure what other than the most obvious suspect in history and the most beautiful distraction from what is an entirely empty plot.

Lily Tomlin (The Walker), a long-time friend of Martin’s, also makes an appearance for no particular reason but to provide a stand-alone comedy bit as the police department’s new personnel officer, determined to monitor Couseau’s behavior around women for even a hint of sexual impropriety. It sounds potentially more clever than it ends up, which also pretty much describes
The Pink Panther 2 all around.

The Pink Panther 2 is full of tired old jokes and even more tired plot twists, but on the day I went to see it the audience didn’t seem to care. As a matter of fact, this audience roared at every pratfall and squished-up face Martin could muster. Of course, of the seventy or so people in the crowd, at least sixty of them were ten years old or younger, so to them this shtick is still palatable.

I guess I must have missed the memo that went out to everyone over twelve letting us know that Steve Martin is no longer “cool”, but then I suppose I should have known that after he made Cheaper By The Dozen, not to mention Cheaper By the Dozen 2. Somewhere along the line Martin has become a ‘children’s movie’ star, so whatever film he makes is bound to devolve into a kiddie movie. Next up for him is another remake, this time of the classic 1937 comedy Topper, which spawned its own series of sequels starring Constance Bennett, Roland Young, and Billie Burke (yes, Glinda, the good witch did other movies besides The Wizard of Oz). Filming hasn’t even yet begun, and I can bet you money there’s already a Topper 2 on the drawing board, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see The Pink Panther 3 soon enough because whether this one was any good or not doesn’t really matter. It’s that this Panther turns green at the box office that counts.

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