IN DEFENSE OF: Steve Martin’s Remake of “The Pink Panther”



Looking over the reviews of Steve Martin‘s remake of The Pink Panther, I’ve noticed that a lot of reviewers ask, "What’s the point?" (here, here, here, here, here, etc.) Setting aside the fact that these critics seem to have rejected the movie on some kind of misguided principle before even seeing it, I’d like to try to answer the question:

Steve Martin is one of the great geniuses in the history of comedy, and like most geniuses, he seeks out challenges. He’s done it his whole career: When he was the biggest comedian in the world, he quit touring and focused on acting. He followed The Jerk with a Depression-era musical (Pennies From Heaven) that confused his fans who expected another zany comedy.

Then he moved successfully into movies that were more "mainstream." Then he switched his focus again, this time to writing plays, short stories and novellas. (There’s more, but you get the idea.) All of these things were new challenges that he needed to tackle to keep his inspiration alive. Was everything great? No. But he would have died as an artist if he had kept making The Jerk over and over. Now, as a fan of Peter Sellers, Martin would understand how difficult it would be to take on the role of Inspector Clouseau, so I see this as merely another challenge for him to embrace.  For someone lacking imagination, maybe remaking The Pink Panther is pointless. But I seem to remember a pointless remake of another classic about a French guy called Roxanne that was pretty good.

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