Monday, March 26, 2012

Capsule Review – The Pink Panther Strikes Again

March 26, 2012

The Pink Panther Strikes Again – US/UK, 1976

The first Pink Panther film was a decent film; the second was simply excellent. Unfortunately, The Pink Panther Strikes Again squanders all of the good will that A Shot in the Dark earned the series. It starts off as a rehash of the previous films and ends as both an ode to The Phantom of the Opera and a James Bond parody, making this Peter Sellers’s second such film. The film even has its own version of the Bond girl in the form of a Russian assassin played by Lesley-Anne Down. The role serves absolutely no purpose. Now there’s nothing necessarily wrong with doing two Bond parodies; the problem is that this one isn’t an improvement over 1967’s Casino Royale.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again is plagued by a series of poor decisions by writers Frank Waldman and Black Edwards, who once again directs. Poor decision #1: Bringing back former Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) as the main villain. In the film, Dreyfus has spent a few years at a mental hospital recovering from his association with Inspector Clouseau. Fans of that film will no doubt recall that Clouseau, in rather hilarious fashion, drove Dreyfus slightly insane. Dreyfus was a fun character the first time around, and I can understand the temptation to bring him back. However, Waldman and Edwards essentially turn him into a comic version of Ernest Blofeld. Poor decision #2: Using the same jokes from the previous films. Waldman and Edwards seem to be operating under the assumption that the same jokes will be funny a second or third time, and so viewers once again get to see Clouseau stepping on suspects’ feet during questioning, being arrested while trying to conduct an investigation, restating the facts of the case in an overly confident way, and ripping his pants while trying to use his keys. We also get an extended scene of Cato and Clouseau chasing each other with kendo sticks and swords and trashing Clouseau’s apartment in the process. It’s all part of what seems to be a daily routine of attacks and counterattacks. The jokes were funny the first time around; here, they just feel stale. Poor decision #3: Promoting Clouseau to Chief Inspector. In what world would anyone deem him fit for promotion?

The plot of the film is equally ludicrous, involving Dreyfus’s rather lengthy attempts at exacting revenge on Clouseau. His quest sees him not only recruit his own band of master criminals but also kidnap a scientist and his daughter so that he can get his hands on a laser that can make things disappear. When he isn’t laughing maniacally or cursing Clouseau, he’s sitting in front of a grand organ piano playing classical music, a la Claude Raines in The Phantom of the Opera. Adding to the homage is the fact that Dreyfus and Raines look alike. Dreyfus even gets some of the world’s best assassins to target Clouseau. This should lead to some humorous scenes detailing Clouseau’s many escapes from death, but the assassination attempts are so poorly concocted and edited that they lack plausibility and more importantly humor. The film picks up slightly as it reaches its conclusion, and Sellers finally gets to display his considerable comic genius in these scenes. His attempts to enter a castle are particularly entertaining. However, these fleeting moments of humor are simply not enough to make up for the mess that preceded them. Unfortunately, The Pink Panther Strikes Again is dated, dull, and disorganized. It is basically a disaster. (on DVD)

2 stars

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