Friday, March 30, 2012

Capsule Review – Trail of the Pink Panther

March 30, 2012

Trail of the Pink Panther – US/UK, 1982

Trail of the Pink Panther is not a film in the classic sense of the word; it’s a tribute to the character of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau and by extension, the much-loved actor that portrayed him. Well, at least half of it is. The first half of the film contains a mixture of outtakes and never-before-seen footage in an attempt to create a narrative that a film could be built around. It’s not very successful. The narrative that is constructed again involves the theft of the Pink Panther jewel, and because Clouseau found the jewel the first time around, it is thought that he may be able to find it a second time. Throughout this part of the film, what we see of Clouseau resembles a collection of his “greatest hits.” There’s an alternative version of the Quasimodo-costume scene, Clouseau once again spilling his groceries and ripping his pants while going for his keys, and a few more instances of Clouseau setting his office on fire. We also get more instances of Clouseau’s accent causing miscommunications, the best of which involves a hotel manager confusing “massage” and “message.” It’s unfortunate that the joke doesn’t go anywhere, for it had real potential. About forty-five minutes into the film, Clouseau’s plane, as well as Clouseau himself, simple disappears.

From here, the film does a complete 380 degree turn by introducing a television reporter named Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley). In an odd move, Jouvet is intent on investigating not Clouseau’s disappearance but his true personality. Therefore, instead of trying to find out where the plane was when it disappeared and who would benefit from Clouseau’s absence, she conducts interviews with many of the most well known characters from the series, such as Cato, Inspector Dreyfus, Hercule, Clouseau’s ex-wife, and Sir Charles Litton (again played by David Niven). The film even brings back Bruno Langois, the French underworld boss, and asks us to believe that the French mafia would be concerned about Jouvet’s investigation. Having watched her interviews, it’s hard to understand why he would feel he had reason to worry. In fact, most of the comments on Clouseau have to do with whether he was as good of an inspector as some people thought he was. It’s peculiar to say the least. Only Litton’s comments touch on the legacy that Clouseau and Peter Sellers have left behind, and this brief tribute is perhaps the best moment in the film. Everything else just feels like filler. (on DVD)

2 stars

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