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The Pink Panther 2is an adequate, but not great, follow-up to its adequate, but not great, Steve Martin predecessor.

The Weak Link

Aishwarya Rai looks even better on Blu-ray
Aishwarya Rai looks even better on Blu-ray

On paper, The Pink Panther 2seems solid. Start with the cast. It features John Cleese, Jeremy Irons, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin and the outrageously ravishing Aishwarya Rai. Throw in a screenplay that works better than the first Martin Panther and all seems primed for gold.

But then there’s the weak link. Steve Martin seems more cloying and annoying this time around. The main problem is, while Peter Sellers’ Clouseau was stupid, Martin’s is stooopit. There’s a big difference between the two.

Perhaps the underlying issue is with the accent. For Sellers, it was one element of a broad, seamless caricature, a nasally voice behind a mouth that butchered whatever language was being spoken. For Martin, the accent is an excuse to mug for the camera and make cutesy faces as he overpronounces and mispronounces his lines. Martin’s is a caricature of a caricature.

Maybe it’s simply a bad idea to have an American in Paris playing Inspector Clouseau. The results weren’t all that great for Alan Arkin way back in 1968 and they’re not much better now. Perhaps next time yet another reboot is in order. And next time recruit another British actor to play Clouseau. Chat up Sacha Baron Cohen and see where he can go with the role.

The Dream Team

Given that major weakness, the story itself compares favorably to the classic Sellers Clouseaus. This time around a “dream team” of the world’s finest investigators track down a thief, named The Tornado, who’s stolen the Magna Carta, the Shroud of Turin, the Pope’s ring and, most shockingly, Paris’ most prized of prized possessions, the giant Pink Panther gemstone. Unfortunately for them, Clouseau is recruited into their ranks.

Actually, some of the mayhem is lifted directly from the classics, particularly The Pink Panther Strikes Again. When Gendarme Panton (Jean Reno, The Da Vinci Code) moves in with Clouseau, his kids take over the Cato role and a goofy fight of nunchucks, karate and other misguided indoor maneuvers tear away at the flat. Unfortunately, the fight in no way matches the over-the-top house-bashing, back-breaking brawls of yore.

And that’s where the obvious departures in the definition of stupidity become more apparent. In Strikes Again, Clouseau owned nunchucks and, believe it or not, he knew how to use them, more or less. Here, Martin waves them around without a clue.

Even so, there are still some good sight gags to be had, enough to make the movie seem more like a pale shadow of what might’ve been had a more suitable actor taken on the lead role. There’s a pre-opening credits sequence that (albeit ridiculously) finds Clousea’s arm stuck in a moving car; the title cartoon is one of the best; a scene in which Clouseau juggles falling bottles of wine is kinda nifty; and there’s also a series of gags in which hidden cameras record Clouseau breaking into a mansion the rest of the dream team entered via the front door.

Blu-ray Extras

The set also includes a couple Blu-ray exclusives, although they don’t really capitalize on the Blu-ray format itself.

In terms of those supplements, there’s a 3 ½-minute gag reel, in standard definition, that offers mild chuckles and yawns in equal measure.

Drama is Easy, Comedy is Dangerous is an 8-minute documentary, in high-def, on the making of the movie. Not great, but not bad.

A Dream Team Like No Other, on the other hand, is nothing more than a 14-minute love fest as the cast and crew heap loads upon loads of praise upon one another. This one’s full of high-def cooties!

Included on a second disc (a standard DVD) are 27 classic De Patie-Freleng cartoons amounting to 171 minutes of pure pinkness. It must be noted that this is a repackaged edition of the previously-released DVD The Pink Panther Classic Cartoon Collection Vol. 1: Pranks in the Pink. For those who don’t already own the disc, consider it something of a treat as this collection of cartoons from 1964-1967 sports a number of Pink Panther “milestones,” including a couple in which the Pink Panther speaks ( Sink Pink and Pink Ice) and a couple that include a highly annoying laugh track ( Shocking Pink, Pink Punch).

Blu-ray Exclusives

The set also includes a couple Blu-ray exclusives.

Master Thief: Global Crime Showdown is basically a trivia game for one or two players. By answering really simple history questions correctly, players can “steal” world-famous artifacts and earn the chance to steal the Pink Panther. In the one-player mode, the Blu-ray takes on the automated role of an opponent. It’s not exactly like playing chess with Deep Blue, but it’s pretty neat.

Sweetening the pot even further, a third disc exclusive to the Blu-ray release includes a digital copy of the movie for use on portable devices.

Picture and Sound

Fox has once again released a technically superb Blu-ray disc. The picture pops with color and rich detail, all the better to appreciate Aishwarya Rai... and film grain.

And the English DTS-HD 5.1 is equally impressive, providing Henry Mancini’s world-famous Pink Panther theme in high-def audio. Also available are tracks in Spanish, French and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1.

For the feature film, subtitles are available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Portuguese. The cartoon DVD offers subtitles in French, Spanish and Portuguese.

How to Use This Blu-tay

Watch The Pink Panther 2and think about what somebody like Sacha Baron Cohen could do with the role. Then, if yearning for a bit of nostalgia, take a foray through the classic Pink Panther cartoons disc.