You need to be smart to make a movie about the stupid, as the Coen Brothers have spent the best part of their career proving. Failing that, when attempting to make a movie about a prize nincompoop then it helps if you aren’t even more conspicuously dim than your protagonist. Yet on the evidence of The Pink Panther 2, it looks as though there were bumbling nitwits on both sides of the camera.
How can the new movie be any worse than the misbegotten 2006 film, which saw Steve Martin’s first maladroit attempt to fill Peter Sellers’ shoes as inept, idiotic Inspector Jacques Clouseau? Prepare yourselves: the sequel is spectacularly dire.
Revelling in its own witlessness, the film opens with a series of thefts of priceless national treasures. These include the Magna Carta from the British Library and the Turin Shroud, the latter’s location illustrated, naturally, by footage of an Italian hilltop village.
The action then shifts to Paris and – mon dieu! – there’s John Cleese, presumably chosen for his facility for vein-popping exasperation, playing Chief Inspector Dreyfuss (the role immortalised by Herbert Lom in the Sellers films and last played by Kevin Kline). Dreyfuss reluctantly assigns Clouseau to an international team of detectives, a squad of national stereotypes comprising Andy Garcia as a smooth-talking Italian lech, Alfred Molina as a tweedy English toff and Yuki Matsuzaki as a Japanese computer geek. Joining them is an authority on the master thief apparently behind the heists, played by Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, wasted in the statutory role of exotic totty.
In the course of the investigation, Clouseau manages to set fire to a Spanish restaurant (twice), fall from a balcony in the Vatican while dressed as the Pope (don’t ask), and wreck various crime scenes, but the sequences of bungling mayhem are outnumbered by the flatly directed, desperately unfunny routines in which Martin, conspicuously lacking the blithe innocence Sellers brought to the role, tries out his hamburger-mangling French accent.
Sacre bleurgh! The film’s accents are all over the place. Emily Mortimer, object of Clouseau’s clumsy infatuation, attempts Franglais, but Cleese is staunchly English and Lily Tomlin, who turns up to give Clouseau lessons in political and social correctness, is resolutely American. No wonder Jean Reno, who plays Clouseau’s hapless sidekick, looks painfully confused. (General release from 13th February)
To activate the sound in the trailer: click on the volume control in the bottom right-hand corner.