Friday, February 10, 2006

Why?

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For those of you who may be serious Pink Panther fans like me, you are probably looking at the new "prequel" Pink Panther starring Steve Martin released today and asking, "Why?" I cannot necessarily make it morally justifiable to you, but Professor Matkin can explain why it makes sense that it has happened. I'm sure for us it would be hard to watch the new film without sharing the sentiment expressed by Roger Ebert in his review, ". . . at every moment in the movie, I was aware that Peter Sellers was Clouseau, and Steve Martin was not." How did this new film get made? It is a matter of simple arithmetic:

* MGM (now owned by Sony) desperately needs money and money-making films, so the rebirth of a successful film franchise is a promising way to stay in the black.

* Family films are increasingly rare, so any film you can take the kids to ends up earning a good return. Expect the new Pink Panther to do the same.

* Steve Martin is apparently making movies for his kids to watch. Think of this as the French slapstick version of Cheaper by the Dozen. I've heard it is decently funny.

* It's no mistake that the director of this Pink Panther, Shawn Levy, also directed Martin in the Cheaper by the Dozen films. Stars and directors collaborating together get any film made.

* Sony wants to build up the drawing power of singer and co-star Beyonce Knowles among pre-teens. This movie is a great vehicle to do so.

* By releasing the movie, it renews interest in the old films and boosts the DVD market. Did you notice how all the old films and cartoons were just rereleased on DVD?

* Blake Edwards gets a fat royalty check and doesn't have to do any work.

Add it up, and you will see why it makes sense . . . and even more cents.

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Steve Martin and director Shawn Levy (above).
Martin as Inspector Jacques Clouseau (below).
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As an interesting note of trivia, Martin is the fifth actor to play Clouseau, and the seventh to play the lead role in the Pink Panther series. Peter Sellers played Clouseau in the first two films (The Pink Panther, and A Shot in the Dark) and then came back for three more films (Return..., ... Strikes Back, and Revenge...) with a fourth made posthumously with deleted footage (Trail...). Alan Arkin played the inspector in the third film (Inspector Clouseau). Clouseau was played by an impersonator in brief, dimly lit shots needed for plot exposition in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther. I have never been able to find out who that was. My hunch is that it was Rich Little, who entirely dubbed the voice of the aging David Niven in Trail and Curse. The last actor to play Clouseau was Roger Moore (billed as "Turk Thrust II"), in a brilliant performance. After Clouseau, Ted Wass played the American detective drafted to find the missing Clouseau in the Curse of the Pink Panther (I seem to be the only person on earth who liked that movie). And the comic genius Roberto Benigni had a hit-and-miss outing as Officer Gambrelli (Clouseau's illegitimate son) in the Son of the Pink Panther.
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3 comments:

dopel said...

Just to add a note---
Steve Martin does not have any children.

Timotheos Prologizes said...

That we know about.

Timotheos Prologizes said...

Update: Internet Movie Database confirms my thoughts on the film:

In a shot-in-the-dark surprise, the Steve Martin version of The Pink Panther opened with $21.7 million over the weekend, well above estimates. It even beat Final Destination 3, a poorly reviewed horror film but one which -- given the strong recent performances of the genre -- was nevertheless expected to eviscerate its rivals. As it was, Final Destination 3 took in about $20.1 million, well above its two predecessors. (The original Final Destination opened with $20 million, while Final Destination 2 took in $16 million.) Another film debuting well above expectations was the hand-drawn animated feature Curious George, which earned $15.3 million, nearly all of it from families with small children. On the other hand, the Harrison Ford starrer Firewall grossed a lackluster $13.8 million, about what analysts had predicted.