What does Steve Martin do with all the money he earns by doing soul-crushing, vapid comedies like Pink Panther and Cheaper By The Dozen? Does he spend it all to cure cancer? Does he buy out the debt of a small African nation? Nope, he makes Pink Panther 2. The good news is that it is not as bad as the first one.
The bad news, of course, is that it is not significantly better. Amongst all bad Steve Martin movies, Pink Panther is actually about the best. It does not have anything other than whiplash-fast slapstick and some accent jokes, but it does have a large talented cast doing a quick cash in film, which of course helps the proceedings somewhat.
There are five writers credited for this film, and it looks like they contributed one funny joke each, which at least doesn't make it a chore to sit through. With much less pressure for the resurrected film franchise's future, Steve Martin has finally relaxed. His calm of course helps him drop the ill-advised Sellers aping he indulged himself in, this time trying to be his own inane self, which at least does not come off too forced.
The story also has embarrassing riches of characters that have been filled by some top talent, making the movie that much more palatable. The Pink Panther 2 begins with the theft of priceless relics from around the world including the Magna Carta, The Pope's Ring, and the Shroud of Turin. Inspector Clouseau is tasked to lead a team of specialists from around the world, a "dream team" of investigators.
This includes Great Britain's Inspector Pepperidge (Alfred Molina), Italy's Vicenzo (Andy Garcia), Japan's Kenji (Yuki Matsuzaki), and India's Sonia (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). Also thrown in the merry cast are Emily Mortimer, John Cleese, Lily Tomlin, Jean Reno and Jeremy Irons. With a hugely talented cast and some pretty faces to look at, at least when the jokes fall flat, the film doesn't have to make excuses.
It's also helpful that the sight gags come fast and dirty, and do not stop for a breather at all. This of course means that the stunts do not have any time to sink in, a new one replacing the previous one almost instantaneously. While this direction by speed does help director Harald Zwart in hiding his many mistakes, it also serves to neglect any good choices he makes.
Martin works hard to get what laughs he can between one joke and the other, and is equal times hit and miss. The advantage the second film has, however, is that Martin himself seems to be having a good time. This makes the good ones hilarious and the bad ones almost palatable. With the most ridiculous denouement in the series history, I'd recommend you get your laughs while you can.
Pink Panther 2 is a nothing film. It's hardly even popcorn fare. If you wanted to watch a real comedy with genuine laughs and great acting, you could do better, specifically the original Sellers classics. However, if you're inclined to laugh a little, have a reasonably good time and forget the film while driving back home, you could do worse.