Friday, February 10, 2006
Movies I Have No Intention Of Seeing, #27

The Pink Panther

starring Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, Beyoncé Knowles, Jean Reno

directed by Shawn Levy (Cheaper by the Dozen, Just Married, Big Fat Liar)

I've stated it many times before, but the MIHNIoS series is less about actual movies than it is about advertising. Actually, more directly, it's about one man's expression of rage and frustration at his inability to leave his home because of demands of both his wife (who insists on not being left alone to raise our children) and the state in which he lives (which insists that he and his wife not skip out and leave three children under seven alone for two measly hours so they can go see a goddamn movie), which leaves him with nothing but the work of the Heroes of Madison Avenue to show him what he is or isn't missing when the new stuff comes out each and every Friday.

But then, strangely, this most recent period has been an unnaturally generous one. In the last three months, I have seen three different movies, all at movie theaters and everything. None of these films had any talking animals whose mother is brutally murdered and who later learns important lessons about responsibility and citizenship. Since November, I've gotten to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (OK, so there were talking animals and a murdered mother in that one, but they were TOTALLY SEPARATE plot points), Munich (ugh) and Terence Malick's The New World.

And if all that gluttony of pretend, fleeting grown-up-ness weren't enough, I get to go to ANOTHER movie THIS VERY NIGHT! Whee!

I know, you're probably thinking "My God, can't you people think of anything else to do with your free nights than go see movies?" And the answer is, No. No, we can't. A) We're boring. No fun to be had since we both gave up crank and B) movies are a reminder of our wasted post-adolescence. Before we were married Mrs. Pops and I would see a movie every single week. Sometimes more than one. Part of it was because we love movies. The other part was that when you're loaded up on crank and can't sleep, sometimes the movies are the only thing that's open. Plus the drive-in is a great place to meet people with other crank-related interests.

Because of the immediacy of the circumstances, this week's MIHNIoS is especially relevant and somewhat more pointed as I will be specifically rejecting an opportunity to see this film.

Based on what I know of it (back to advertising), I couldn't have picked a better candidate for Non-Viewership than this re-make of The Pink Panther.

Just on the surface of it, before I know anything about it, it just seems like a terrible idea. Any time you take something iconic and try to repackage it, you run the risk of looking ridiculous by comparison. Failure is sort of built in. But paradoxically there's a sort of weird leeway that one might expect when people go "Well, there's no way it can be as good as the original." It's easy to surprise people when they assume what you're doing will suck even before you're going to do it. It's like George Bush in a presidential debate. Or really the reason why this blog was conceived of as a remake of the collected works of Leo Tolstoy.

That being said, I have some serious reservations about this movie. First of all, it's about French people. Unlike many Americans, I don't have a particular problem with the French. I've been to the Paris casino in Vegas several times and most of the people there seem fairly cool. Most of the people who work there even speak English.

The problem isn't the French per se. It's the French as played by Americans.

I know Kevin Kline can do a passable Frenchy accent because he was in the awful, awful French Kiss with Meg Ryan. Plus: he can act and everything.

The problem I have is with Steve Martin. I know he can do physical comedy (go rent All of Me if you don't believe me because all you can remember is Sgt. Bilko), but his accent work... I mean, just based on the New Yawk Italian he was supposed to be doing in My Blue Heaven gives me pause. It gives me a lot of pause, to be honest. I've got pause coming out of my ass.

Now, I like Steve. Steve's a local guy from Garden Grove. That's in Orange County and one town over from Westminster, where my mom is from (and my grandmother still lives). Sure, it's kind of a shithole now, but I'm from Riverside. I've got lots of shithole sympathy to pass around.

But Steve normally talks like a guy who was from Garden Grove and then went to college. Which is great. He should just never, ever change it.

Some actors can change their voice from role to role. I don't think I've ever seen Giovanni Ribisi do the same voice in two different movies. They make you go "Wow, that is some different, different shit. Them are some talented vocal chords." Then there are others (your Steve Martins, your Leonardo DiCaprios) who should NEVER EVER TRY to alter the way they speak unless it is their stated goal to make me hate a movie and for it to lose money.

Past Steve and Mr. Kline, we get to the two token roles: Beyoncé (the girl) and Jean Reno (the French guy).

Are there no other French actors who can speak English? Why is it that in EVERY SINGLE MOVIE that involves French people, the French people are all played by Jean Reno? I don't have a problem with Mr. Reno. He was The Professional after all. But really, is Gerard Depardieu that bad?

You know what, I think I just answered my own question.

I don't know if Beyoncé can act or not. My inclination is to say probably not, but it's hard to decide definitively. She's just too goddamn attractive to be objective about it. As long as she sticks to playing hot girls who sing, I have no objection to seeing her image projected on to 40 foot high screens. If she tries to go all Madonna Shanghai Surprise on us, I might have some issues.

Look, this movie seems like it must be terrible. I like most of the people in it, but that doesn't mean they SHOULD be in it.

To give you an idea of how I'm scoring this, everyone in it who is not French who is playing a French person gets a -2. And that's pretty harsh considering Kevin Kline and Steve Martin each get automatic +1s just for being them. I also give a pre-emptive minus to Jean Reno for playing the French guy in The Da Vinci Code in May. Bad Reno! Bad!

The only net plus is the presence of Beyoncé and the hotness. That's not nothing, but it sure as hell ain't enough.

I have no choice but to break out the Zero. And around here, Zero means:
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Oh, the shame. But then, it's directed by the guy who directed Cheaper by the Dozen, so I don't think shame is much of a problem for the creative team here.



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