We gave it a C
A funny thing happened during postproduction on Shawn Levy and Steve Martin’s 2003 hit, Cheaper by the Dozen. No, really. As in big-grin, bust-a-gut funny. ”Steve came in to do some sound looping,” the director recalls, ”and as we were walking to our cars [afterward] he said to me, ‘I’ve been offered The Pink Panther. I’m not sure if I want to do it, but I’ve got a few ideas.’ He proceeded to act out scenes in the parking lot, and I started laughing right there.” Thus, a 21st-century ”reinterpretation” of the Blake Edwards-Peter Sellers classic was born.
Martin stars as the legendary Inspector Clouseau, hired to retrieve the titular diamond ring stolen from a slain soccer coach. For the first time, a case takes the bumbling French sleuth from Europe to Manhattan, where he and his sidekick, Ponton (Jean Reno), trail prime suspect Xania, a femme fatale-ish pop star played by Beyoncé Knowles (big stretch). Meanwhile, back in Paris, Clouseau’s conniving boss (Kevin Kline) maneuvers against the duo. As for creating his own Clouseau, Martin says it all came down to nailing zat — how you say? — trademark Gallic accent. ”In comedy, you ad-lib, so you have to get to a place where it’s extremely comfortable,” the actor explains. ”Once I felt like I wasn’t doing Peter Sellers, and I was doing something quasi-original, then I felt good and thought, I’m not sure what the critics will say, but I think I’m being funny.”
Ah, yes, the critics. Not to mention those purist fans of the originals. Martin and Levy are prepared for the inevitable how dare they! reactions from both camps. ”We’re trying to be respectful of the franchise,” Levy explains. ”But Steve wrote this, and it’s stamped with his distinctive comic sensibility. The tone is filled with irony in a way that the old movies weren’t necessarily.” Plus, he adds, ”It’s not like I’m remaking Pink Panther with Joe Schmo. I’ve got Steve frickin’ Martin!”