The first Pink Panther film back in 1964 was a straight caper movie featuring David Niven in his suave jewel-thief role. But Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau stole the show. Eight more Pink Panther movies followed, centering on the stumbling, bumbling French detective, each one sillier than the last. Now Steve Martin has taken up the mantle of the late Mr. Sellers in The Pink Panther (rated PG).
The "Pink Panther," in these movies, is not that long-limbed animated feline who took on a life of his own in commercials and a cartoon show; instead it's a diamond that is always being stolen.
In this version the owner is a soccer star who is robbed and killed in front of thousands of screaming fans. So the structure of the movie is that of a detective story, with Inspector Clouseau assembling clues to solve the mystery. But that is only a slender reed to support the real purpose of the movie: sheer, non-stop, slapstick comedy. And Steve Martin, who co-wrote the script, is a master of physical comedy. In just about every scene, he is getting his hand stuck in a vase, knocking someone down the stairs, toppling Tour de France cyclists, or the like. All with perfect Gallic dignity.
Some say physical humor is the lowest form of comedy. That and wordplay, silly voices, and ethnic humor-all of which this movie has in abundance. But though it may inspire critical disdain, this humor can also be the funniest, at least to those of us who appreciate the "Three Stooges" aesthetic.
The movie is rated PG, but it has some sexual innuendos, including a schtick with a Viagra tablet, in which Clouseau ends up setting the bathroom on fire.