Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Unfunny Panther

As comedies go, I would rank Steve Martin's "Pink Panther" somewhere between Star Wars Episode II and Janet Jackson's Superbowl halftime show.
How can you combine a hilarious franchise like Peter Sellar's Pink Panther, combine it with one of the very finest stand up comics of all time and yield a movie without a single laugh.
I dunno. Neither does James Bowman, although he seemed to like it more than I did.

The new Panther is a movie for the dimmer sort of children who can't tell the difference between an immortal comic creation like Sellers's Inspector Clouseau and Martin's pale imitation. The difference, in case they want to know, is the difference between a comic character -- like Charlie Chaplin's tramp or W.C. Fields's bank dick or Laurel and Hardy in their screen personae -- and a comedian with an array of gags in his box of tricks but no character of his own to make him interesting apart from the gags. Mr. Martin's most unforgivable bit of tampering with the classic prototype of Clouseau's character is to make him smart. Or rather, to make him smart and dumb. First he's dumb. So dumb that he's even dumber than Sellers's Clouseau. So dumb that he makes a sack of stones look smart. But then he gets smart in the end, instead of merely lucking into his success -- which of course only makes the caricature more offensively false.

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