I know, I know, it's a shocking oversight on my part that I've never actually seen any of the original Pink Panther movies featuring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau (despite owning the boxset). I appreciate that many will feel my ignorance of those movies invalidates my opinion of this movie, and the sequel (review coming soon for that one, too). Well, trust me, despite having not seen the movies yet I AM aware of their prospective greatness. I have seen enough snippets of Sellers in action to know how good he is in the role of Inspector Clouseau, I've seen moments in which Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is driven round the bend and I know about the friendly fights between Clouseau and his assistant, Kato (Burt Kwouk). Basically, I am emphasising the fact that I know the characters and dynamics even though I've not seen the movies. Yet.
But let's get to THIS movie. Let's get to this interpretation of the character. Inspector Clouseau is still a bumbling, French detective (this time played by Steve Martin), Charles Dreyfus (Kevin Kline) is still being driven up the wall and there's now an assistant named Ponton (Jean Reno) who works with Clousea and deals with surprise attacks. The Pink Panther? Well, it's still a lovely diamond and the cause of a lot of problems. In fact, the disappearance of the gem is the main plot point of the movie, of course. Jason Statham makes a cameo appearance as its owner, Beyonce Knowles plays his partner and Henry Czerny is a suspect in the murder/robbery. Clive Owen has fun as a suave secret agent who inadvertently helps Clouseau to look good, and Emily Mortimer is a lovely young woman who falls for the Inspector, but the majority of the scenes focus on the bumbling nature of the central character and the catastrophes that he causes around him.
Directed by Shawn Levy, this is his typical brand of family-friendly entertainment. I happen to enjoy many of Shawn Levy's movies, but he's not exactly a risk-taker. He's capable enough here, helped enormously by the amusing characters and the script, co-written by Martin and Len Blum. Martin isn't a patch on Sellers when it comes to the character of Clouseau, but he deserves kudos for trying to stay true to the most familiar interpretation of him while also putting his own little spin on things. The fact that he's surrounded by people like Kline, Reno, Mortimer and Czerny helps a lot, and Beyonce does well as a beautiful woman who can make men act a bit funny.
Christophe Beck is the composer, but he uses that classic theme tune by Henry Mancini for both the opening credit sequence and many musical motifs throughout the movie, keeping soundtrack fans more than happy.
As long as you don't keep comparing every moment to the films starring Peter Sellers there ARE many laughs here. Including a very funny fart joke (hey, it's not big, it's not clever, but it's still funny). I'm not going to convince anyone that this is actually a decent comedy and I'm not going to try too hard. I like it, I'd watch it again and I may still like it just as much even after I finally watch my boxset containing the original movies.