Making the Grades
Timing is everything--in relationships, career moves and especially comedy.
Just as Pierce Brosnan retires from the role of the polished James Bond, Steve Martin stars in The Pink Panther franchise as the bumbling Frenchman, Jacques Clouseau. It's a career move that could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship for the comedic actor.
In this prequel to the 1963 movie, which starred Peter Sellers, Martin contributes to the project off camera as a screenwriter as well as resurrecting the clumsy crime fighter.
Following the public murder of the national soccer coach, Clouseau is summoned from his county precinct to the Paris office of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Kevin Kline). Promoted to the rank of Inspector, he is assigned to investigate the untimely death of the coach and the theft of his famous Pink Panther diamond.
Assigned as an assistant to the newly advanced Inspector is a bulky, somber-faced agent named Ponton (Jean Reno). Descending from a long line of law enforcement officers, Ponton's infinite patience with Clouseau's absurd actions is a testament to his dogged attitude toward justice. (Better known for tough guy characters in Rollerball and Mission: Impossible, actor Jean Reno also displays his previously undisclosed talent for deadpan humor in this role as Martin's straight man.)
Grilling the coach's girlfriend Xania (Beyonce Knowles) and his teammate Bizu (William Abadie), the Inspector starts eliminating names on a long list of suspects while his secretary Nicole (Emily Mortimer) adeptly runs intervention for her unwary boss.
Meanwhile, with Clouseau's investigation under the scrutiny of the media, Chief Inspector Dreyfus plans to quietly conduct his own inquiry, solve the case and put himself in good standing to receive the country's highest award for honor.
Like the Seller's movies, this script relies heavily on slapstick humor, with some of the gags coming straight out of the original films. Clouseau's initial meeting with the Chief Inspector is punctured by a mishap involving the new arrival's police badge. Electrocutions, explosions and a finger caught in a door are played for laughs along side the more serious murders of two characters. Brief sexual innuendo and some suggestive comments along with a flatulence joke are other content concerns parents will encounter.
Still, the director manages to combine a smart script and good pacing. Believing he is hired for his abilities, Clouseau faces a devastating setback when the truth behind the Chief Inspector's motives is revealed. Yet the disheartened detective doesn't commiserate for long. Disclosing his real degree of competence, he and his subordinates bring the case of The Pink Panther diamond to a close with perfect timing.