Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Pink Panther (2006)

Year 8, Day 310 - 11/5/16 - Movie #2,480  

BEFORE: I'm back after a 10-day break, during which time we had the real Halloween, not just in movies, we had about 100 kids come to the door for candy this year, and I made sure that all of them got voter registration cards and Trump stickers.  Hey, what's more scary than that?  Plus my wife and I had our 15th wedding anniversary (Nov. 3, but we did the big dinner out earlier tonight) and I managed to catch up on a lot of TV and comic books.  But without watching movies, as I feared, my watchlist grew in size again - I had it down to 103 at one point, but now it's up to 123 again.

So before I begin tonight, I've got to do a little bit of list maintenance.  I left myself exactly 21 slots to finish out this Movie Year, and I had a plan for all of those slots - but now, as I examine the plan more closely, I see that I've made a number of mistakes.  My 21 films were essentially divided into two parts - 12 films that would get me to "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", and another 8 films after that.  However, this was not a continuous chain, there was one indirect link, one break for a documentary, and one film that didn't link at all - it seems I accidentally placed a film with JAMES Brolin in between two films that star JOSH Brolin.  Nope, that won't work at all.  Plus that chain relies on THREE films that I don't have copies of, and only one of them ("Rogue One") will be in theaters.  

So tearing apart the list again seems like an incredible chore, and this highlights another mistake - if I had added a few more Dracula and/or Frankenstein films to the October line-up, I could have cut my work here in half, then I could just follow the links to "Rogue One" and be done with the year.  But no, I had to schedule a couple of Christmas films this year, and getting from here to there in the right number of steps is not going to be easy.  To make matters worse, I pre-watched two of the films I had planned for December, and since I can't un-watch them, and I don't want to carry them over into next year, I have to link to them somehow, even if it's indirectly. 

Now, I could just scrap the whole list and chart a new course - a little experimentation gave me a link between "The Invasion" and "The Good Dinosaur", from there I could link to "Reds" and then a couple other Warren Beatty movies - this would put "The Parallax View" on Election Day, and I could certainly make a political connection there.  There's a link from there to a couple of Gene Hackman films ("Night Moves" and "The Conversation"), then I could follow the Harrison Ford link to "The Age of Adaline", and I sort of know my way from there.  But this only changes the first half of the list, and right now it's the second half that worries me, so I really wouldn't have accomplished anything by doing that.  

The saving grace is that by adding films to the list, I've created new linking opportunities that weren't there a month ago, or even 10 days ago when I went on break.  I've got a possible link OUT of "Rogue One" now, and I can see how that links to what I had planned for December, so I think it's best if I stick with as much of my last plan as possible, with a couple of tweaks I think I can make it work.  I'm going to postpone the two Peter Pan-themed films until next year, and drop in three Will Ferrell films, that should make the count even out again, and in doing so I'm reducing the number of breaks in the chain from two to one, and also reducing the number of films I'll have to watch online from two to one.  So this should be easier all around.  And it only took me a couple of hours to change the plan, and thanks to the end of Daylight Savings, I had an extra hour to do the tweaking tonight.  And if I count tonight's film as Saturday's film instead of Sunday's, I can still program a war-themed film on Veterans Day.

So Roger Rees carries over from "The Invasion", as I originally planned.


THE PLOT: Bumbling Inspector Clouseau must solve the murder of a famous soccer coach and find out who stole the infamous Pink Panther diamond.

AFTER: This is another one of those films that I swore, at one point, I would never watch.  But this is sort of the year for getting to those, like "Yentl" and "Red Dragon".  If I'm getting to the films that I planned to never watch, that must mean I'm making progress, right?  I watched the essentials, then the films that I could take or leave, and now I'm getting to the ones I've been avoiding for the longest time! But also, this is the year for sequels and reboots, so when all is said and done for the year, this one should fit right in.  

The reason that I swore to avoid this film was out of respect for Peter Sellers, and the original films directed by Blake Edwards.  But you know what?  They had their own faults.  Sellers was a comic genius, but as I learned from watching all of his "Pink Panther" films in a row, shortly before starting this project, the series ran off the rails at some point, perhaps during the third or fourth film you can really pick the scene where it jumped the shark.  Maybe it was during the 2nd film that they cobbled together from outtakes and unused scenes after Sellers died, because they still wanted the franchise to continue.  By the time they had Ted Wass starring in one film, and Roberto Benigni as Clouseau's son in another, most fans realized that the franchise should have been buried with its star. 

There was always a bit of that same "Frankenstein's Monster" confusion with the series, too - the Pink Panther was a diamond, not a character - the jewel thief in the first film was called "The Phantom", but later films in the series kept "Pink Panther" in the title, even when the movies had nothing to do with the gem.  "The Return of the Pink Panther" should really have been called "The Return of the Phantom", but then I guess the filmmakers didn't think the audience would understand, so the error took prominence over logic.  

Sellers had to walk a fine line, comically speaking - Clouseau had to be clumsy and inept, but not inherently stupid, because that would be sad.  Mostly he had to fail upwards, while pulling off a series of disguises and physical gags.  But further inconsistencies abounded as the relationship between Clouseau and Chief Inspector Dreyfus deteriorated, after Clouseau's accidental successes drove Dreyfus insane, and before long Dreyfus was the main villain of the series.  I remember as a kid being excited when a "Pink Panther" film ran on TV, only to be disappointed when I realized that once again, it was the one where Dreyfus was the criminal mastermind, or the one AFTER that when he was somehow declared sane again and reinstated.  Whaaattt??

What I mean to say is, as much as I love the original films (some of them, anyway) I now realize there could be room for improvement with an update.  The original series came to symbolize what could go wrong when a franchise is allowed to go on too long, but sometimes, like with James Bond, a reboot could be just the thing.  But it's sad to say that by going for the cheapest, silliest slapstick at every turn, this reboot turned out to be more like "Austin Powers" than "James Bond".  Perhaps that's what they were going for, but I'm left feeling they could have aimed a lot higher.  

The modern Dreyfus promotes Clouseau and assigns him to the Pink Panther theft case (OK, at least the new film worked in the diamond heist) which also involves the simultaneous murder of a soccer coach.  OK, I'm with you so far, soccer's big in Europe, I hear.  And the suspects include the coach's girlfriend, who's an international pop star, played by an international pop star.  Everything seems to be relevant so far...

But then, Clouseau gets his fingers stuck in a door.  And sets fire to a bathroom.  And gets BOTH his hands stuck in vases.  And drops a globe down a large staircase, where it bounces out into the street and knocks over bicyclists from the Tour de France.  It seems that in France, there's ALWAYS a group of bicyclists going by for Clouseau to knock down.  It's just too much of the same thing, over and over, so by the third time he electrocutes himself, it's simply stopped being funny any more.  They even tried to revive some old Sellers gags, like attacking his assistant without warning, but that worked when Kato was Clouseau's manservant, and it was much less successful here. 

However, if I focus on the positives here, there is a case/problem, Clouseau is clumsy but still manages to fail upwards, and there is a semi-logical climax and resolution, so in the middle of all the nonsense, the film does manage to follow proper three-act structure.  For the longest time it just seems like repetitive slapstick without any sign of an ending, but it did manage to tie up the loose ends.  Just too many descents into non-productive comedy, like Clouseau's inability to pronounce "hamburgers".  Or the fart sounds in the recording studio.  I could go on and on...

Also starring Steve Martin (last seen in "A Simple Twist of Fate"), Kevin Kline (last seen in "Ricki and the Flash"), Jean Reno (last seen in "Alex Cross"), Emily Mortimer (last seen in "Notting Hill"), Beyonc√© Knowles (last heard in "Epic"), Kristin Chenoweth (last heard in "Rio 2"), Jason Statham (last seen in "Spy"), Clive Owen, Henry Czerny, Boris McGiver.

RATING: 3 out of 10 tranquilizer darts

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