Elaine at the movies:

Elaine Blum

The Academy Awards, airing this Sunday, Feb. 22, is an event I was excited for well before nominations were even announced in January. But you really do need to be in a particular mood to screen any of the Oscar nominees. Each of them is heavy, intellectually demanding, and to some degree intense. Sometimes you just need a little fluff.
“The Pink Panther 2” is bubblegum humor and is pleasantly predictable. True, half the time it depends on obvious or over-the-top humor. Also true, some of the setups can be spotted far in advance. For example, I successfully identified the true villain within his/her first five seconds onscreen. However, this is part of the charm. It is the type of movie you go to for some simple, good-natured frivolity.
Yes, you know that Inspector Clouseau will yet again, despite all appearances, solve the case and rescue the Pink Panther diamond. However, the fun part of the movie is seeing how he manages to do this despite all of his mishaps. Inspector Clouseau is not very suave or subtle and he walks into a lot of obvious goofs. Yet he manages to solve the case and get the girl. It has an all-around happy ending.
It also bodes well for this sequel that almost the entire original cast returned. Steve Martin reprises his role as Jacques Clouseau, Jean Reno returns as Ponton – the faithful, deft sidekick – and Emily Mortimer yet again provides the innocent romantic interest, Nicole. The main change in casting is the replacement of Kevin Cline by John Cleese – a switch which does not go unnoticed.
To be fair, seamlessly replacing cast members is hard to do in any situation, since there tends to be some natural preference towards the original product. Just consider how hard it was when they swapped Darren on “Bewitched.” I am a fan of Cleese, but the honest truth is that this role is just boring for him. The character has none of his signature flair or off-beat, subtle humor. To see Cleese at his best, watch “A Fish Called Wanda,” a personal favorite.
Another slight snag of the film is that the writers felt they needed to change up the relationship between Clouseau and Nicole. The film does initially continue the comically awkward relationship developed in the previous movie. The two exchange pleasantries and pretend to ignore the awkward chemistry. But the relationship quickly evolves into something a little different for this film. The change is not altogether unsatisfactory, yet I could have happily enjoyed it if they would have played more off of the original setup. The innocent, off-beat relationship had not yet gotten old.
As far as sequels go, “The Pink Panther 2” does avoid the curse of being a complete flop, as so many are. And yet, I have not made any mention of the true original: the 1963 Peter Sellers version. I admit I have not viewed this classic and I hereby add the title to my prioritized “to see” list. For those of you who are familiar with its story, I acknowledge that the contemporized version probably does not compare to the original. However, this sequel is funny and entertaining if what you need is some brain candy.