There is about the same ratio of physical humor, verbal ineptitude, and comedic set pieces that the old Sellers/Edwards versions had. Clouseau is not dumb in a low-brow, bodily-functions sort of way, he's dumb with a brilliant sort of lunacy: He decides to play good cop-bad cop with a suspect, but doesn't know that usually two different cops are required for the job. One of my favorite gags was when Clouseau and his side-kick, Jean Reno, decide they need to dress in "camouflage" to infiltrate a fancy party.
 I'd go so far as to suggest Reno's performance was Oscar worthy (should the Academy ever break down and admit that comedies exist). How this ubiquitous tough guy pulled off all the physical comedy while seeming both clued into, and yet understanding of, Clouseau's lunacy is inspired stuff. If France hasn't declared war on us after this thorough trouncing, I think we need to order up some French fries and say all is forgiven.
 
Does this mean I've totally forgiven Martin and director Shawn Levy for their last joint venture, the horrid little movie "Cheaper by the Dozen: Never Let Your Parents Move"? Well, no. Did my family have a great night out at the movies? Well, yes. I'll take it. 
  
High School Musical
 
High School MusicalYou can't really talk about family entertainment these days without taking note of what's happening over on the Disney Channel.
 They've set up a "studio system" much like what the studios had in the 30s and 40's, with a stable of writers trained in the Disney formula and a group of "contract players"--actors they use again and again, who often move from TV movies to series, and occasionally (like Hilary Duff) jump off the top into Disney Divadom. The young actors are all talented and attractive, and most of the girls can sing.
 
The Disney Channel, besides producing its own original series, is now coming out with original straight-to-Disney-channel movies that debut on average once a month. The films all have some sort of hook that grabs the tween crowd that Disney has zeroed in on.
 
So what happened last month to make the Disney movie-of-the-month suddenly become a New York Times story?
 
"High School Musical" shot through the roof, generating a repeat viewing audience of millions, and sending five songs from the soundtrack, and the soundtrack itself, to the top of the Billboard charts, with virtually no radio airplay. 
 
How (besides ceaseless promotion) did this happen? After all, most venues gave it fair to middling reviews.
Here's my guess: Unlike other Disney channel movies, it featured no kids who were secretly witches, top models, movie stars, famous musicians, computer generated, or time travelers. It was about normal kids. In high school. Granted, these normal kids were gorgeous, with an astronomical likeability factor, singing very hummable pop songs, and dancing numbers choreographed by Kenny Ortega. But the world of high school sports and musicals is a fertile one for stories, especially when the high school isn't frightening and angst-infested, as in so many movies and shows, but an idealized one that every tween would like to attend, with good friends and conflicts that are handle-able.
 
Disney made no secret of the fact that "High School Musical" was "Grease" for a new generation. It even started with the two leads meeting on vacation, not knowing the girl would soon be transferring in to the boy's high school. But instead of featuring promiscuous greasers and accidental virgins, it features the basketball players, the brains, and the musical crowd, and fights the idea that kids must be pigeon-holed and stick with their own types. (You know it's Disney when the male lead climbs up to the girl's bedroom after dark—to deliver sheet music.
 
Toward the end, the script did devolve into the totally unbelievable, but by then, who cared? The biggest production number was about to break out. "High School Musical" had the "X" factor that made it watchable again and again, and in fact, my kids had "High School Musical" gatherings where they and their friends divided up the parts and sang along.  
 
And I know it's corny, but shortly after the "High School Musical" phenomena hit, my son, the sports kid, tried out for (and got) a lead role in his school musical. So now we're shuffling between basketball games and "Oklahoma!" rehearsal, "just like Troy." So thanks, Disney Channel, for a frothy musical about ordinary kids. And do you think you could give our school play director a phone number for Kenny Ortega, who directed "High School Musical"?