Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Black and blue (and hurting all over) panther

In the editing studio

Steve Martin: Heh. Right in the sucker! Pow! Good one. But couldja speed it up a bit?
Editors: They're gonna love this. Wham, old lady, wham! They're gonna sooo lurve this.
Dissenting voice: Umm, Mr. Martin? Hasn't this violent-act-on-old-lady thing been done before?
Steve Martin: Doesn't matter. It's still funny. I think it's a great idea. Don't you think a flying object smashing into an old lady a fun idea? No? Too bad. It's my screenplay.

My first doubts about The Pink Panther arose a day earlier when, in a television preview, a granny was upended. As Inspector Jacques Clouseau's car turned sharply at the end of a Paris street, a loose beacon above it broke free and flew into a disabled grandmother's face. Now the Pink Panther, for me, is an animated pink panther who forever outsmarts Inspector Jacques Clouseau (a picture of gravity with his trenchcoat and magnifying glass). The unwelcome realisation that a cartoon is just a cartoon is one reason why I had every intention of letting this winner go by. Reality spoils the fun. That and the errant beacon.

I ended up watching it for family reasons - an explanation everyone surely understands - and drifted into a numb state a few minutes into the movie. A few hours later, it was all over. A series of improbable events had culminated in just desserts spread all around. The world was okay again. But those hours were mortifying. I thought of my beloved cartoons, where the humour was smooth and polished, where slapstick came naturally. And then there was this monster, with Mr. Martin playing a boof. Who can forgive this? It wasn't comedy, it wasn't even parody. It was, however, proof of what happens when tired minds press too hard.

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