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Movie Mom

I have seen taxidermy livelier than this moribund mess which further sullies the reputation of the original series of films starring Peter Sellers as well as those of everyone associated with this unwelcome sequel to the awful 2006 Pink Panther.

Steve Martin returns as Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling (except when he isn’t) gendarme whose physical and social clumsiness somehow always end up saving the day. This time, a super-thief who leaves a calling card saying simply “The Tornado” has stolen precious artifacts that are central to the pride and identity of European countries. French Chief Inspector Dreyfus (John Cleese, with an English accent) is directed to put together a “dream team” of top international sleuths, and despite his best judgment (and jealousy) of Clouseau, he is added to the team. The team includes a snobby (surprise!) Brit (Alfred Molina), a very romantic (surprise!) Italian (Andy Garcia), a Japanese expert in (surprise!) technology (Yuki Matsuzaki). The author of a book on the Tornado turns up to offer her expertise (the always-exquisitely lovely Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). They bicker and pratfall in various beautiful locations, most notably (but not even a little bit interestingly) at the home of The Tornado’s notorious art dealer, played by the top “What is he doing in this mess” award-winner, Jeremy Irons. Second place goes to Lily Tomlin, who once appeared with Martin in the delightful All of Me) but now has to make do as an instructor in culturally sensitive behavior who gets to throw in a “tut-tut” here and there.

The movie is spiritless in concept and limp in execution. It almost feels static as scenes — and attempted gags — are all but stationary. A restaurant burns down twice. Not funny either time. A man tells us — twice — that if something happens he will wear a tutu. It does and he does. But it isn’t funny. Clouseau is very dim or very clever, very sincere or very offensive. Not funny either way. A man shampoos another man’s hair and they discuss the fact that jojoba is pronounced “ho-ho-ba.” Funny? Don’t think so. It is supposed to be funny that Clouseau makes insensitive comments but the movie itself is insensitive on gender and ethnicity — not to make a point and not with any wit, just because it is careless and clumsy. More unforgivably, it is just dull.

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