Well, I hope you tucked into the feast of Oscar contenders that's been spread before you for the past month, because there's nothing in the Hollywood pantry this week, it seems, except reheated left-overs. It's got to the stage that the most appetising morsel on the menu is The Pink Panther 2 – the second film to star Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau and, by my calculations, the 10th in which the bungling detective has appeared.
It's a baggy, brightly coloured farce that's good for three or four chuckles, tops. A mysterious thief called The Tornado is stealing the world's greatest treasures, so Clouseau is drafted into an international team of expert sleuths. It's incredible how over-qualified the cast is. In no particular order, there's Jean Reno, Jeremy Irons, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, Lily Tomlin and Aishwarya Rai, none of whom has anything to do except sit around waiting for Martin to trip over something. It's indicative of the film's talent-squandering that it has John Cleese in the role of Clouseau's superior, Chief Inspector Dreyfus, and yet he uses his usual English accent instead of his priceless French twang from The Holy Grail. The only asset among the supporting cast is Emily Mortimer, adorable as Clouseau's Miss Moneypenny stand-in (Mlle Argentcent, I suppose). But even she is problematic: it makes your skin crawl to see someone so fresh-faced and sweet mooning over this Clouseau.
As Rowan Atkinson demonstrated in his second Mr Bean film, buffoonish man-children are only funny up to a certain age, at which point they become creepy. Martin, aged 63, has gone beyond that certain age. There's something insalubrious about a camp, mincing, blithely destructive senior citizen with the hormones of an adolescent and the intellect of a toddler. Sellers' Clouseau may have been clumsy, but Martin's version is a grown man who's never heard of the Pope, and who thinks he can drive a car with his hands off the wheel. To quote the wise words of Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder, Martin has "gone full retard", ie, he's made the character so stupid that you're no longer amused by his antics, you're just worried that he's going to hurt himself.
This week's other beacon of originality is Friday The 13th. For those who haven't been keeping track, the first film to bear that irrelevant title was released in 1980, to be followed by 10 sequels, the last of which limped out in 2003. Now the producers are going back to the beginning, and re-telling the same old gory story. Friday The 13th was never going to be a masterpiece, but there's no reason why it couldn't have had some brains to go with all the entrails, as evidenced by My Bloody Valentine 3D. Instead, the franchise has been resurrected in the most witlessly formulaic fashion, even by the standards of a slasher movie. Suffice it to say that some vacuous, interchangeable students/underwear models go to stay in a house in the woods, where the women take their tops off before a hockey-masked serial killer called Jason takes their heads off. You needn't feel sorry for them, though. The characters' IQs go up once they're decapitated.
Also showing 15/02/2009
Notorious (122 mins, 15)
This biopic of the late Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious BIG, achieves the remarkable feat of seeming like a simplified, sanitised hagiography at the same time as presenting the Brooklyn-born rap star as a repulsive waste of calories. The script crowbars in numerous speeches about what a special person Wallace is, and it claims that he's an innocent bystander in the hip-hop feud that culminates in his shooting, but the Biggie (Jamal Woolard, pictured centre) we're shown is a crack-dealing, wife-beating, child-neglecting, self-pitying liar. An incisive film about him would have been a dubious enterprise; an unconvincing TV movie is just pointless.
Hotel for Dogs (100 mins, U)
Emma Roberts (Julia's niece) plays one of two orphaned siblings who stumble upon a boarded-up, yet fully furnished Belle Epoque hotel in the heart of a thriving metropolis. Seems a tad unlikely. Anyway, they decide to turn it into a deluxe animal shelter, and equip it with Heath Robinson devices that feed and exercise the strays. It's a fine premise for a half-hour Wallace and Gromit episode, but does it really fit into a melodrama about sobbing children in search of loving foster parents? No, it doesn't.
King of the Hill (88 mins, 15)
The hero of this well-made Spanish survival thriller has to leg it through the mountains while someone takes pot shots at him with a sniper rifle. At least he's a recognisable member of the human race, unlike the machete fodder in 'Friday the 13th'. NB