The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2 movie poster
MPAA rating: PG
Genre: Comedy
Inspector Jacques Clouseau is back, this time with an international group of detectives, who together, must stop an international thief and retrieve the historical artifacts he stole.
Starring: Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin, John Cleese, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Director: Harald Zwart
Running time: 1:32
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Editorial Review

Who doesn't like watching Steve Martin dressed up like the pope, pretending to fall off the balcony of the Vatican? I mean, not counting me, of course. I'm a critic. I get paid not to laugh.

Fake popes are funny. At least, judging by the generous audience reaction to a recent screening of "The Pink Panther 2," they are. Several fans of Martin, reprising his role as the bumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau in this sequel to the 2006 update of the old Peter Sellers comedies, tittered and guffawed when Clouseau, investigating the theft of the pontiff's ring, donned the Holy Father's robes to reenact the crime. He wound up swinging wildly in the air over the heads of the crowd in St. Peter's Square. I mean, come on, that's hilarious.

Isn't it?

Okay, maybe one could expect a little bit more. Especially from a film that co-stars Jeremy Irons, Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, Alfred Molina and Lily Tomlin. Yes, you read that correctly. Each of those blue-chip performers is criminally wasted in the movie, which plays like a series of disconnected, hit-or-miss skits in a cut-rate "Saturday Night Live." Even Martin's talents as a physical comedian are underused, except for a wonderful set piece early in the film where his character gets to juggle a cascade of bottles as they fall from a teetering wine rack.

Sure, it's dumb humor. But it's also, at times, mean. Clouseau calls one of his fellow detectives, a Japanese computer whiz played by Yuki Matsuzaki ("Letters From Iwo Jima"), "my little yellow friend." I know, we're not meant to laugh at the victim, but at Clouseau's bigotry, which is supposed to be just another example of his comic ineptitude.

My only question is this: In the context of these by-the-book pratfalls, is it funny enough?

-- Michael O'Sullivan (Feb. 6, 2009)

Contains slapstick violence and brief suggestive humor.