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Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 07:23 am

The Pink Panther 2 takes the audience to the bank

Steve Martin as Insp. Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther 2.

There’s one good laugh in The Pink Panther 2 and it’s nothing but a throwaway line. The bungling Inspector Clouseau (Steve Martin) lists all that he misses about his estranged lover, Nicole (Emily Mortimer), and happens to mention that one of her many cats is named Caligula. That’s it, right there, the biggest laugh I got during the 92 minutes I spent watching this film that I will never get back. I’ve just saved you eight bucks.

It’s not that this sequel is bad, it’s simply unnecessary. There are no new revelations about Clouseau’s character, the plot remains the same, as the priceless Pink Panther diamond is once more in jeopardy and Martin, director Harald Zwart and two other screenwriters haven’t found any new ways to make its main character fall any funnier. It’s all been done before, much better by Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards in the original Panther films, and while it’s fun to see an international cast featuring Andy Garcia, John Cleese, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, Jeremy Irons and Aishwarya Rai, the most beautiful woman in the world, try to out-mug each other, it isn’t worth the price of admission.

Mayhem ensues as Clouseau and a world renowned dream team of detectives try to recover precious artifacts from the cat burglar known as “The Tornado.” Restaurants are burned to the ground, the Pope is humiliated in Vatican Square and predictable “twists” occur like clockwork. All the while, this cast laughs its way to the bank collecting big paychecks for this folly while those in the audience are the ones left holding the bag. Talk about predictable.

Steve Martin as Insp. Jacques Clouseau in The Pink Panther 2.

There are plenty of good ideas in Paul McGuigan’s science fiction thriller Push. For the first 45 minutes, the director looks as though he might be on track to deliver a genre classic. Unfortunately, the movie’s serpentine plot winds up twisting itself into knots, so much so that by the end, what had seemed fresh comes off as tired and labored.

Seems as though years back, Nazi scientists, who were a pretty busy bunch if films of this sort are any indication, were experimenting with prisoners who they discovered had psychic gifts. They hoped to tweak and heighten their abilities and use what they learned to create super soldiers. Though the war ended before they could carry out their plan, other governments around the world picked up their research and wound up creating people known as Sniffs, who can track anyone from the slightest scent, Stitches, who possess powerful healing powers, Watchers, who can tell the future, Movers, who can manipulate objects and Pushers, who manipulate your mind.

The setup is a good one as screenwriter David Bourla has created a potentially rich cast of characters. However, the plot here is thin as it revolves around a Watcher named Cassie (Dakota Fanning) who recruits a Mover named Nick (Chris Evans) to help her track down a case containing a powerful drug that’s been stolen by Kira (Camilla Belle), a Pusher who’s escaped from The Division, where these mutants are experimented on. This is the sort of movie that would be fine at a 90-minute running time, but McGuigan is intent on wowing us with two big climaxes where one would suffice.

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