By Chris Thilk | February 8, 2006

The Pink Panther is, by everyone’s estimates, going to be a trainwreck. It was originally supposed to open in October or so of 2005 but got pushed to February 2006. The official spin was the studio wanting to move it out of the crowded Oscar season as well as not compete with the other Martin flick Shopgirl. Unofficially it was delayed because of extraordinarily awful early reviews coming in from test screenings. The main problem seems to be that no one – and I mean no one – can ever do what Peter Sellers did with the role and to assume otherwise is sheer folly.

What possessed Steve Martin, a man who possesses a wit so dry it makes the driest of martinis look like a cool mountain spring, to sign on to this is beyond me. Not only that but he brought Shawn Levy, who directed Martin in Cheaper by the Dozen, with him. It’s things like this that make me think there’s a crazy little man that lives in Martin’s head and whispers bad career advice to him. That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

The Poster

Steve Martin doesn’t even look like he was trying to pretend to be interested the day the poster photo was shot. He’s just standing there with the shadowy tail of the cartoon incarnation of the Pink Panther coming out of his a*s. The tagline “Get A Clue!” tips us off to just how broad the humor will be. The inclusion of Beyonce Knowles’ name on the poster along with Kline’s and Martin’s makes it like a “which one of these is not like the other?” game.

The teaser version of the poster had Martin peaking out from behind a big pink paw print. The same problems that exist on the theatrical version were hinted at here so we can’t say we didn’t see them coming. It was only slightly less boring than the theatrical one because it had a black background so it didn’t seem like they were wasting quite so much space.

The Trailers

Both the teaser and the theatrical trailers mine much of the same material from the film. Much of it shows just how accident prone Clouseau is and just how darn funny Martin’s accent is. There’s a bit of setup about the plot, the wearer of the Pink Panther diamond is murdered and the diamond is stolen, but it’s dismissed pretty quickly. The theatrical version is just a tad more painful because it includes a scene of Clouseau trying to say “hamburger” in an American accent.

You can tell every problem there’s going to be with the movie just from the combined 3:47 of the trailers. Too much slapstick, Martin looking like he knows he can’t compete with Sellers, Jean Reno obviously bored but knowing there’s a paycheck coming. Oh – and I think this is on everyone’s mind – what the hell is anyone doing casting Beyonce Knowles in a movie? Come on!

The Website

When you get into the site (there’s nothing of note before you enter the main part of the site other than the ability to download the trailer in PSP-ready format) you are sent to the rooms of the main characters to find clues. You get to those rooms by playing a driving game that is alright but nothing special.

If you don’t feel like playing a game and just want to get to the movie information there’s a navigation bar along the bottom that you’ll like. When you click on the links you’ll find that they bypass the actual game play by taking you to the rooms you’d otherwise have to drive to.

“The Film” contains a Synopsis, Production Notes, Cast and Crew bios and some other general notes. Most of the notes and other information is obvious and fairly useless PR fluff about how madcap the movie is and such. Only the trailer is contained in “Video” which makes me think they just should have renamed it “Trailer. But that’s just me. I’m funny in my desire for concise and accurate labeling of content.

There are about a dozen pics in “The Gallery”, none of which do anything to quell the uneasy feeling I have – and you should have – about the movie. “Downloads” is probably my favorite part of the site, if only because it gives you a high-res version of the poster to download. In addition to that there’s the usual array of Buddy Icons, Desktop Images and a Screensaver.

Finally, there are a series of games based on the movie in the “Games” Section. None of them are all that interesting, with the worst offenders being “Decode Clouseau”, the “Pink Panther Activity Kit” and a lame punching game that turns Martin and Reno into the equivalent of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. It seems that, indeed, nothing is sacred, including the dignity of these two actors.

Oh, one more thing. When you find all the clues scattered around the various locations Martin pops up and announces you’ve solved the mystery. This is the only time he has the good sense to look embarrassed by what he’s been asked to do. This was obviously shot on a day off from shooting as it looks like he barely went into makeup or bothered to get into costume. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s just a t-shirt he’s wearing under his coat.


Now here’s the thing: Everything else being equal I would want to see this movie. I’m a big fan of both Martin and Kline and them working together sounds great on paper. All MGM and Sony (it’s a co-production of the two) had to do was put together a halfway decent campaign and have a bit of faith in the movie and things would have been fine. But they panicked by moving the release date. Doing so confirmed everyone’s worst fears and rumors.

It seems like the studio knows the movie isn’t going to do well and to some extent is cutting its losses. I’ve seen very few TV spots for it, indicating a lack of faith or an admission that it won’t seriously compete against the other new releases. It will probably open in third or fourth place this weekend and drop off from there.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.

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