Film Roundup XXI

The Return of the Pink Panther – 82%

Peter Sellers reprises his role as bumbling French Inspector Jacques Clouseau for the third time. Once again the priceless Pink Panther diamond has been stolen, and all evidence points towards a notorious jewel thief called The Phantom (Christopher Plummer). No one is more surprised than The Phantom himself (Sir Charles Litton), however, who is innocent and trying to enjoy his retirement. While his wife diverts Clouseau and Clouseau’s Oriental manservant Cato (Burt Kwouk), Sir Charles sets out to track down the real thief and clear his name.

Return is the best of the wildly uneven Panther sequels, and perhaps even the most successful comedy of the series. It features all of the “classic” elements of the typical Pink Panther movie (introducing for the first time the Chief Inspector’s insane homicidal rage at Clouseau), while cobbling together a roughly coherent plot and an enjoyable experience.

Walk, Don’t Run – 86%

In Cary Grant’s final screen appearance, he plays matchmaker as Sir William Rutland, an English businessman who travels to Tokyo shortly before the 1964 Olympics. With no housing available anywhere, Rutland snags an add from a bulletin board at the British embassy and talks his way into the apartment of Christine Easton (Samantha Eggar), a strait-laced young British woman who is engaged to an equally stuffy British official. When Rutland befriends Steve Davis (Jim Hutton), an American athlete with nowhere to stay, he sublets his portion of Christine’s apartment, much to her annoyance. In-between business meetings, Rutland impishly devises ways to throw Steve and Christine together, with hilarious (if predictable) results.

This is a thoroughly charming and funny romantic comedy that I could watch over and over again. It has a smart and engaging script built around Grant’s fun and effortless charisma. In fact, Grant is so good in the role, that it makes me wish he hadn’t retired simply because he felt that he had aged beyond the point of plausibly playing a romantic lead. Still, no one can argue that he didn’t quit while he was ahead.

Secret Window – 78%

Best-selling mystery writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) is stalked by an angry man named John Shooter (John Turturro) who claims that Rainey stole his story and ruined the ending. While Rainey struggles to prove that this is not the case, events around him take a sinister turn, and he is certain that Shooter is responsible. Despite a decent cast, this is fairly rote thriller material. Rather ironically (for a story that is so obsessed with good endings), the final reveal is a bland and overused shocker-twist, and I was left wishing that the screenwriter had dug a little deeper into the creativity file.

The Incredible Mr. Limpet – 64%

Don Knotts is a near-sighted, timid bookkeeper who is obsessed with fish. One day, as he peers down into the water from the end of a dock, his fondest wish is granted when he falls in and is transformed into a talking animated fish. Even though life under the sea is not exactly as he had imagined, he finds peace and contentment there; until, that is, he finds that his old country needs his undersea expertise to aid them on the Pacific front during World War II. This fun little flick, which combines live-action with animation, is pure entertainment. The fantasy wears a bit thin at points, but fans of Knotts’ usual schtick should find nothing to complain about.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – 95%

Gary Oldman and Tim Roth fill the title roles in this screen adaptation of Tom Stoppard’s delightful retelling of Shakespeare’s classic Hamlet from the perspective of two of its most minor characters. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find themselves summoned by the King of Denmark and assigned to discover the source of his melancholic madness. However, from the moment they arrive they find themselves caught up in a sequence of events that they cannot understand, let alone control. Richard Dreyfuss is great fun as the mischievous and enigmatic figure of “The Player.”

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this film every one of the several times that I’ve seen it, and it has inspired some of my academic endeavors. It is a great movie version of a great play. On top of being a playful deconstruction of Hamlet, it examines a whole range of existential philosophical questions in a very powerful and thought-provoking way. It is certainly unlike any treatment of Shakespeare you’ll have seen before, and likely unlike anything else you’ve seen, either. Offhand, I can’t think of any comparable examples.

~ by Jared on March 20, 2009.

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