The Pink Panther

Whether one regards this Steve Martin vehicle as a prequel to the Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards comedy series or a rehash of the 70s installments (when Sellers was sometimes too distracted even to sustain Inspector Clouseau’s French accent), it’s decidedly rough sledding. Kevin Kline awkwardly replaces Herbert Lom as the vituperative Inspector Dreyfus, and Cato the houseboy has been replaced by Jean Reno as Clouseau’s bored assistant. Martin, who cowrote the screenplay with Len Blum, halfheartedly imitates Sellers’s accent rather than any actual French one. The vintage 007 babes (notably Emily Mortimer and Beyonce Knowles) are the principal decor, and Shawn Levy is the hack director. The mirthlessly sadistic gags tend to target people in wheelchairs or hospital beds and betray a mild if all-encompassing disgust for the source material and the audience. PG, 92 min. (JR)

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