Panther Deux’s still not merveilleux, but at least Steve Martin makes an effort.
THE PINK PANTHER 2(Harald Zwart). 92 minutes. Opens Friday (February 6). For venues and times, see movies. Rating: NN
The Pink Panther 2 offers a modest improvement on Steve Martin's first lamentable run at the franchise. This time, he isn't just sleepwalking through his performance as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau; he's making an effort.
For the sequel, he's shaped the character to his own strengths, designing set pieces around his particular physical gifts, engaging in absurd wordplay, continuing his awkward romance with co-worker Emily Mortimer and sparring with old pal Lily Tomlin, who plays Clouseau's exasperated sensitivity counsellor.
Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese, replacing Kevin Kline) sputters in the background. It's nothing new, but there's a solid laugh in every reel.
The movie itself is a pretty lazy affair, with Clouseau joining a "dream team" of international sleuths (Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Yuki Matsuzaki and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) out to catch a long-dormant art thief known as The Tornado - and, as usual, being more hindrance than help.
Still, there's the avocado joke, the juggling sequence, the ever-adorable Mortimer and the left-field appearance of French icon Johnny Hallyday in a key role. It adds up to the best Pink Panther movie in more than 30 years - though that doesn't say much for the series.