Blake Edwards, Hollywood’s one-time ingenious farceur, desperately tries to bounce back with “Son of the Pink Panther,” the eighth episode in the comedy series that began in 1964. Starring Italian comedian Roberto Benigni as the new bumbling inspector, it is a tired pastiche of recycled sketches and sight gags. Pic will generate some coin opening week as a curio for nostalgic viewers, but should rapidly lose its draw, landing on videos.
It must have sounded like a valid concept to revive the series, a decade after the last installment, with a gifted comedian like Benigni as a new hero. But it turns out that Edwards has nothing fresh or funny to add to the old ideas.
This time around, twitching Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is asked to investigate the disappearance of Princess Yasmin (Debrah Farentino), kidnapped by a nasty German terrorist (Robert Davi) as a ploy to depose dad.
Also assigned to the case is Jacques Gambrelli (Benigni), a second-class gendarme who doesn’t initially realize he’s the illegitimate son of the famed Inspector Clouseau. Nor, to his dismay, does Lom.
Like father like son, with minor alterations: Both are charmingly inept, but Benigni’s love for poetry and opera replace Peter Sellers’ passion for the violin.
Too bad that Edwards’ specialty, the elaborate orchestration of sight gags with hilarious payoffs, is almost absent, replaced by rather vulgar slapstick humor and a few effective incidental gags.
Benigni is the major asset, but his vast talents are underutilized. It’s nice to see the series’ veterans again, although, under these circumstances, neither Lom, usually so pathetically laughable, nor Burt Kwouk as Cato — whose brawls with Sellers were always a high point — excels.
Cast as Benigni’s mother, Claudia Cardinale is burdened with the task of having to explain what happened in the previous stories. One unavoidably smiles when Cardinale says that Clouseau “made love the way he played music,” but even such moderately whimsical lines are in short supply.
Except for the cute credit sequence, production values are mediocre. It may be a good idea to put the Pink Panther to rest.