Steve Martin is a national treasure. He has leading-man chops, has wit to burn in his screenplays and brightens every scene he’s in with hilarity … if this were 1989, when the manic comedian was on quite a roll with the likes of “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” “Roxanne,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Parenthood” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
The Steve Martin of today is a family-friendly embarrassment — a pale imitation of his former self, no longer reliable at delivering laughs. Case in point: “The Pink Panther 2,” or, as I like to call it, “The Stink Panther, Phew.” (It’s not for nothing its initials boil down to “P.P.”)
Was anyone clamoring for a sequel to the 2006 remake that never should’ve happened? Regardless, Martin returns as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the bumbling Frenchman more adept at falling down than actual detection. Here, a villain known as The Tornado has swiped several historic museum pieces, including the Pink Panther diamond, so Clouseau is called upon by his harried supervisor (John Cleese, subbing for Kevin Kline) to join a supergroup of detectives from the world over (played by slumming Oscar nominees Alfred Molina and Andy Garcia, and Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai). Belabored setups ensue.
The film is painful, lazy and the antithesis of amusing. You know you’re in for a bad time when even the animated opening credits — usually a highlight of the “Panther” franchise, dating back to its Peter Sellers/Blake Edwards glory days — fail to elicit a smile. Non. —Rod Lott