There's no denying Steve Martin's commitment to the role of Jacques Clouseau, the fumbling and deluded Gallic detective Peter Sellers brought to life with ineffable comic timing. But watching his second outing, the burning question remains: Pour quoi? Not all of Blake Edwards' Panther films were gems, but why redo Clouseau as a caricature for the millennium?
The answer is: Family-friendly franchise. Martin's Clouseau is a broader, sweeter, less complicated – and less funny – clown than the 1960s-'70s vintage. The Pink Panther 2 is less laboured than the 2006 installment.
But that film grossed $82 million (Dh300m) in the United States, and part two no doubt will perform well at the box-office, despite critical pans.
This comedy whodunit generates more laughs than its predecessor, which is to say, two or three.
The script uses a paper-thin plot to revel in goofiness. On hand to portray the cartoonish characters is a wasted cast of familiar faces, among them Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, John Cleese and Jeremy Irons.
The action involves the international "dream team" of crime experts assembled to catch the Tornado, who's swiping priceless artefacts like the Shroud of Turin and the Pink Panther diamond.
The script and direction leave characters standing around while Martin does his stuff. Among Clouseau's poorly written colleagues, Yuki Matsuzaki is a computer whiz, and Bollywood's Aishwarya Rai Bachchan falls short of the mystery she's meant to convey.
Alfred Molina's British detective gets one good bit with a forensic one-upmanship with Clouseau.
As the debonair Italian detective who takes an interest in Clouseau's assistant Nicole (Emily Mortimer), Andy Garcia does it with a sly comic touch, while the lovely Mortimer makes the attraction between Clouseau and Nicole matter as much as anything here possibly could.