When I was knee-high to a grasshopper (or three apples tall as they say in France, apparently), I watched a lot of cartoons. There were the classic Saturday morning variety, like The Smurfs. There were the ones that were supposedly geared mostly to boys (ah, the 1980s) like G.I. Joe. Then there were holdovers from a bygone era. These included several pantheons of characters, like those made by Hanna-Barbera, Warner Brothers, and Disney. Among this last group, or group of groups, was a character named the Pink Panther. Now, I am aware there was an earlier version of a live action The Pink Panther made in 1963. I have no idea how they got from an animated, rose-colored apex-predator that got into all kinds of hijinks to a series of films based on a bit part from those shorts. Whatever the case, I noticed the 2006 iteration on Netflix recently so I thought, why not?
That bit character I mentioned, perhaps obviously, is not The Pink Panther. Rather, it is Inspector Jacque Clouseau (Steve Martin), but we are told about him early on by the head of the French police, Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Kevin Kline). What the Chief Inspector has to say about Inspector Clouseau is not flattering. Put simply, Inspector Clouseau is an idiot. What is worse, he seems oblivious to the destruction caused by his ineptitude. Yet, because this is a comedy, such evidently dangerous behavior is allowed to continue. The Chief Inspector brings Inspector Clouseau to Paris in order to investigate the death of the French national soccer team’s head coach, Yves Gluant (Jason Statham). The case is given a higher profile for a few reasons. First, he is murdered on the field following his team’s latest triumph. Secondly, he had been dating the internationally famous singer Xania (Beyoncé). Finally, on his finger he is wearing a giant rose diamond called, ahem, well . . . it is called the Pink Panther. . . . Yeah. With the added pressures of such a public crime, why would the Chief Inspector put somebody with evidently limited mental capacities on the case? Because Inspector Clouseau will doggedly follow procedure and keep the press at bay while the Chief Inspector waits to swoop in and solve it himself. The hope is that doing so will earn him fame and prestige, namely his country’s highest honor, the Légion d’honneur. Hence, Inspector Clouseau is brought in and is shown to the press to be the one attempt to find who killed Coach Gluant. Still, the Chief Inspector assigns Gendarme (basically police officer, in French) Gilbert Ponton (Jean Reno). Inspector Clouseau is, of course, clueless, seeing Reno as a junior partner. From there, it is a series of comedic set pieces all designed to showcase how much of a dolt is Inspector Clouseau. As I have indicated in reviews of other comedies, it is hard to describe comedy. There are some pretty funny moments, but they are pretty much all of the physical school of jokes. Please bear this in mind as I continue. Not long into his investigation, another victim falls, apparently done in by the same killer because it is a player on the soccer team, Bizu (William Abadie). He had been an early suspect because, like most people, he did not like Coach Gluant. The next person to whom Inspector Clouseau turns his attention is Xania. She poses a problem for Inspector Clouseau, however, because he is smitten with her, like the rest of humanity. Despite her being a subject, he allows her to leave the country. At the same time, he cannot shake the feeling that she knows more than she is letting on based on her behavior. Thus, he and Ponton decide to travel to New York City where they find her in the office of a shady looking jeweler. Xania puts the charm on Inspector Clouseau once more, and it leads him to feel that he needs a night with her in order to ascertain the truth. Instead, of obtaining any information, the evening ends in property damage at the hotel, and an embarrassment for the French police. This is none to the Chief Inspector’s liking, particularly after earlier when Inspector Clouseau unintentionally stopped a major heist inside a casino. Believing that it is now time for him to make his move, the Chief Inspector arranges for Inspector Clouseau’s bags to be thoroughly searched when attempting to go through the airport on the way back to Paris. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) finds several weapons in his briefcase, the result of his bag being switched without his noticing. Thus, when Inspector Clouseau returns to the office, the Chief Inspector angrily, and gleefully, dismisses Inspector Clouseau. Yet, when back in his apartment and looking on his computer at headlines of his mishap in New York City, he notices something that changes his mind about staying away. Appealing to Ponton for help, they infiltrate a gala function where Xania is performing, with the help of his secretary and love interest (after a fashion), Nicole Durant (Emily Mortimer). Once there, Inspector Clouseau spots a would-be assassin and tracks him down. Further, as the startled gasps die down from these sorts of things, Inspector Clouseau points to Xania, revealing that she had the diamond all along. Not to worry, though, as it rightfully belongs to her. Anyway, the perpetrator turns out to be Yuri (Henry Czerny), the Russian trainer of the soccer team who had a grudge against Coach Gluant. This is much to the chagrin of the Chief Inspector, who had been on the verge of arresting someone else. We end with the Chief Inspector in the hospital, the result of many injuries caused by Inspector Clouseau.
There is nothing too objectionable about The Pink Panther aside from a little bit of suggestiveness and innuendo. It is rather mild, actually, compared to other films. More broadly, comedies, like describing how funny they are (or are not), are hard to look at with a Catholic angle. As such, I am going to stretch one little, but no less interesting, moment. There is a meeting of high-ranking officials to discuss finalists for the year’s Légion d’honneur award. The Chief Inspector is all smiles until he realizes he has two competitors. The last name he would like to hear is Inspector Clouseau’s for his part in stopping the heist that initially brought him headlines. The other competition is a nun. It is the only tangible Catholic connection in the film, and I find it quite interesting. The joke is supposed to be that nobody is more deserving of this kind of award than a female religious. It is a stereotype, to be sure, but one that speaks to the better side of Catholicism. It is interesting because they choose this simple woman in her black and white habit as the symbol of goodness. Put differently, she is deserving of honor, just like Our Mother, whom these women try to emulate. Movies do this kind of thing because society still looks at nuns as a symbol of purity. It is a brief moment, but a satisfying one when placed in the right context.
As I said in the previous paragraph, The Pink Panther is not too objectionable. If you are into slapstick humor, however, boy have I got a movie for you! If any of this interests you, you can find it currently on Netflix.