In ancient Egypt, grave robbers were buried alive. In contemporary Hollywood, they become studio executives. MGM has been trying to exhume Inspector Clouseau and the Pink Panther franchise ever since star Peter Sellers' death, first with The Trail of the Pink Panther(featuring archival footage of Sellers), then The Curse of the Pink Panther(an American detective is sent looking for Clouseau) and, in the early '90s, The Son of the Pink Panther (you get the idea). But only now, apparently convinced they will never get permission from Sellers' estate to dig up his corpse and equip it with animatronic joints, have they dared give the role of Clouseau to another actor. Egomaniacal yet desperately insecure, Sellers had an affinity for Clouseau, the pompous imbecile, that gave his films an edge amid the silliness. His replacement, Steve Martin (who also co-wrote the script), just wants us all to get along. With the exception of one scene with an accent coach, his Clouseau is flabby and obvious, like your dad doing an impression at the dinner table. The gags are no worse than in the Sellers movies—frequently better—but the whole enterprise is a little too nice. Even Clouseau himself is sentimentalized. Kicked off the force for an embarrassing episode, he responds by solving the case with humility and deductive brilliance. That's right: The bumbling idiot we'd come to know over eight films is revealed to be fluent in Cantonese and photo-manipulation, an expert on obscure foreign military doctrines and French property law. As is so often the case with Hollywood retreads, the joke is on us. (Christopher Orr) (Countywide)
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.