We gave it a C
Steve Martin scholars in search of a thesis topic are encouraged to analyze the inspiration the complicated comedian draws from the mysteries of his own pants. Consider: Martin’s great, silent stage act, ”The Great Flydini,” consists of pulling an abundance of objects from his open zipper. And now in The Pink Panther, playing the role of bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau, first made famous by Peter Sellers in Blake Edwards’ 1964 caper of the same name, Martin once again brings his trousers to the party. Ensconced in a posh hotel suite with Beyoncé Knowles playing an international pop diva, his Clouseau fumbles with a drink called a Flaming Mojito and, long story short, eventually emerges from the nearly wrecked hotel with his crotch smoking. The sight of the handsome, white-haired Martin (black moustache smartly trimmed and eyebrows set on Go!) maintaining his dignity in the face of self-propelled chaos is the artist’s signature philosophical stance. It’s a classic.
Everything charming about this pale Pink Panther — as well as everything else much less so — is on display in that scene. Martin’s gift for physical and vocal comedy is as deft as ever — he chews over the pronunciation of hamburger the way Sellers masticated his monkey. But the plot, involving a murder, a missing diamond, and a vain police chief (Kevin Kline), makes a short story long. And in fishing for appeal to a younger audience (with a pretty but tonally wrong Beyoncé and the jokes about Viagra, calling plans, and Flaming Mo’s), director Shawn Levy and his team squander Martin’s old-timey hipster appeal — everything that makes his act fly.