Steve Martin, Pink Panther 2

Peter Iovino/Columbia Pictures

Review in a Hurry: The second take featuring Steve Martin as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau occasionally—only occasionally—gets a clue, thanks to The Pink Panther 2's strong cast and the intermittent cute line.

The Bigger Picture: Martin once again trades his banjo for the kooky cop cap in his return to the Pink Panther franchise. The inherently 1960s concept—first developed by Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers—remains intact, with equal parts slapstick, high style and a whole lot of sneak-thieving and lady-ogling. Judged by those standards, Pink Panther 2 does fine, especially given that the audience is obviously kids.

We open with Clouseau biding his time as a parking-meter cop in Paris, as meticulous as he is clueless about his demotion from le snoop extraordinaire. A new cat burglar named Tornado is padding about, stealing national treasures, and it's only a matter of time before Clouseau is literally plucked from the gutter to save the jour.

He joins what amounts to a dream team both on- and off-screen, including the always-terrific Alfred Molina as a British master of deduction, Jean Reno as an admiring fellow French sleuth, sexpot Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as does-it-really-matter and Andy Garcia as an Italian.

Of course, Clouseau bungles everything he touches, including physical evidence, a private audience with the pope and a fits-and-starts relationship with his pliant secretary, Nicole (Emily Mortimer). The result is the usual chandelier-swinging, costume-swapping, chimney-crashing and at least two scenes where the same restaurant gets lit on fire. And at one point, the legendary Pink Panther diamond has to disappear—again—because otherwise the producers would have to sit around thinking of some new movie title.

But just when the stretched-thin plot seems ready to snap entirely, the cast or the script—cowritten by the very witty Martin—pulls out a zinger that manages to please everybody.

The 180—a Second Opinion: The cast alone may be worth a ticket, if not a rental. A scene between Martin and Molina, in which the two square off on their deduction abilities, has the makings of an instant classique.

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