Audiences long ago stopped expecting Steve Martin comedies to entertain people over the age of 13.
The Kennedy Center Honoree once blazed a comic trail like few others, but for the past decade he’s been content to tickle family-friendly funny bones.
Can “Cheaper by the Dozen: The Cheapiest” be too far away?
So it’s hard to muster up much outrage that his latest film, a sequel to his unnecessary franchise reboot “The Pink Panther,” falls squarely in line with his past outings.
“The Pink Panther 2″ does commit a new cinematic foul for the silver-haired comic. The movie assembles a killer cast and wastes every last one of ‘em.
Just try making Lily Tomlin and John Cleese unfunny. It isn’t easy.
Someone is stealing the greatest artifacts ever, from the Shroud of Turin to the Pink Panther diamond.
Who you gonna call?
Enter Inspector Clouseau (Martin) who as the film opens is writing parking tickets to snobby Parisians. He’s quickly assigned to find the new master thief in town by Dreyfus (Cleese, replacing Kevin Kline here).
Clouseau teams up with a detective dream team, which includes Andy Garcia and Alfred Molina, to sniff out the thief.
Within 10 minutes the film drags out its “ahm-bur-gare” gag from the first film. Is the sequel out of fresh material already? Yup, although a few sight gags, including Clouseau dealing with a cascade of falling wine bottles, are moderately amusing.
Martin’s French accent remains a curiously funny concoction, but the set pieces around him are so hastily assembled, so obviously shoehorned into the narrative, that it’s hard to find pleasure in his performance.
And could the franchise bring a smidgen of consistency to Clouseau? In one scene his deductive skills are downright scary, but the next moment he’s so dumb it’s a wonder he can tie his shoes.
It’s lazy scriptwriting, and since Martin gets a screenwriting credit here he shoulders some of the blame.
Tomlin appears for a few disjointed scenes as a sensitivity expert, but her exchanges with Martin won’t make anyone forget their classic pairing in “All of Me.”
“The Pink Panther 2″ delivers a few mild chuckles, but it’s a comedy best appreciated by audiences who never saw Martin strut across the stages as King Tut – or wearing an arrow threw his head.
(Photo: Steve Martin strains to bring the funny in “The Pink Panther 2.”)