Monday, December 15, 2008


This is a long and spotty franchise, beginning with 1963’s original Pink Panther, starring the inimitable Peter Sellers. There are quite a number of Pink Panther films, but be sure to do your homework: some don’t star Peter Sellers (and I’m not talking about Steve Martin. Q: Did you even know there was a Pink Panter movie with Alan Arkin as Inspector Clouseau? A: 1968’s Inspector Clouseau.)

I hope I’m not bursting any bubbles here, but I can’t recommend the original for family viewing -- only because it was so slow, the first 30 minutes filled with interminable conversations and scenes setting up a very, very convoluted plot which lost all three of us in no time, and had K complaining and bouncing around the room (granted he was nine or ten at the time, but we felt his pain) -- but I do recommend one of the later titles, albeit with slight reservations.

The fourth PP movie, The Return of the Pink Panther, from 1975, is great fun, and starts off with not only clever, animated credits, but once the credits end and the movie begins, we are thrust right into the action, with a stealthy, well-disguised diamond thief breaking into a museum in a fictional middle eastern country (filmed in Morocco) to steal the Pink Panther diamond. It’s a clever, well-paced scene that pulls you right in, and very soon you’re guffawing at the ridiculous mishaps and bad luck that are the very essence of Paris’ Inspector Clouseau. He’s called upon to catch the thief -- much to the dismay of many who have worked with him and know the havoc he can wreak. (After obliviously wrecking a hotel with his incompetence and endearing buffoonery, he sniffs haughtily, "I must leave. Zis hotel is deteriorating rapidly.")

It’s physical humor, not terribly sophisticated -- pratfalls, knowing looks and Clouseau’s baffling pronunciation of words continually draw laughs -- and the story is blessedly easier to follow than the original movie.

Recommended, but: for kids with the attention spans of gnats, there’s a slight sag in the middle. The PG rating is likely due to a couple of things: there is a scene of Clouseau ogling a lovely lady as she unknowingly disrobes to step into a sauna -- you don’t see anything but it’s a slightly uncomfortable moment for parents; the debonair Sir Charles, a professional but retired (or is he?) jewel thief breaks the fingers (one at a time, in different scenes) of a slippery, untrustworthy snitch. It’s not done in a gruesome or graphic way, but it’s just ... mean, darn it. There is also some language of the times that rankles: Clouseau continually refers to his Asian butler/martial arts sparring partner as having “yellow skin," or as "a yellow skin."

I hope to get around to some of the other PP films eventually, and confess we just watched this one recently since K howls at the previews for the upcoming Steve Martin film. I wanted him to have some background appreciation for the character before seeing a contemporary take on these classic films. Return of the Pink Panther was a hit at our house.

Steve Martin. Hmmm. Well, I can think of worse people to riff on such classic films ...

Here's a rather long trailer, and a Steve Martin trailer after it:

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