THE PINK PANTHER (Shawn Levy). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (February 10). For venues and times, see Movie Listings. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Inspector Clouseau, the bumbling gendarme personified by Peter Sellers in the 1960s, was created by an Englishman looking for a way to make fun of the French. Now the Americans want a shot. In this "prequel" to the original film (that somehow takes place in the present), Steve Martin takes on the iconic inspector with mixed results.
Soccer coach Yves Gluant ( Jason Statham ) is murdered, and his famous Pink Panther diamond goes missing. Chief Inspector Dreyfus ( Kevin Kline ) brings in Clouseau to put a face on the investigation while he himself works behind the scenes, hoping to solve the crime and reap the glory. Along the way, Clouseau and Ponton ( Jean Reno ), Dreyfus's snitch, interrogate Gluant's girlfriend Xania ( Beyoncé Knowles ) and get help from Clive Owen in a hilarious and pointed cameo as 006.
It's fitting that Martin should follow in Sellers's footsteps. Best known for broad comedy, Martin occasionally tries for his own Being There, the film that won Sellers an Oscar. He and the rest of the cast plunge into the silliness with aplomb; the only weak links are Knowles and the annoyingly ubiquitous Kristin Chenoweth . But ultimately this movie's very existence is pretty sad. It proves that Hollywood is bereft of ideas and that making fun of the French is still an all-too-easy way to get a chuckle.