Insanity is relative in the final installment of the Pink Panther series, starring "gifted comedian" (Variety) Roberto Benigni along with Panther alumni Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk and Claudia Cardinale. Fueled by Benigni's "wacky charm" (Blockbuster Entertainment Guide) and "splendidly fractured English" (Halliwell's Film and Video Guide), Son of the Pink Panther proves that a family resemblance can sometimes be painfully obvious.
An Arabian princess is kidnapped, and it's up to Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Lom) to save her. Fortunately, there's no Clouseau around to plague him this time! But when a klutzy local cop with the unfortunate name of Jacques (Benigni) is assigned to help him, he manages to run Dreyfus over and blow him up - all on his first day on the job. Soon Dreyfus begins to fear that if Clouseau has a long lost son, he would be a lot like this!
Some franchises go out strong in a blaze of glory and celebrated with fireworks and Oscar nominations. Some franchisees realize the end is neigh and deiced to go out on a good note. Not a great note, but good enough to appease the stalwart fans. On the other hand, some franchises don't quite realize enough is enough and shuffle out one more sad sequel with the hopes that audiences will eat it up and demand further adventures. Unfortunately, the latter category is where the original Pink Panther franchise finishes off with Son of the Pink Panther. Even the manic energy of Roberto Benigni stepping up to the plate as the son of Inspector Clouseau can't keep the film's tired premise from falling into severe lulls of boredom.
France and Lugash have enjoyed a strong alliance for over 200 years. When times get tough for one, the other comes to their aid. Whenever the famed Pink Panther diamond was stolen, France sent their best detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau. When Princess Yasmin (Debrah Farentino) is kidnapped while on holiday - they've turned to Police Commissioner Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). Unfortunately for Commissioner Dreyfus' sanity, Gendarme Jacques Gambrelli has been assigned to assist him with the case. As it turns out, the klutzy nincompoop Gambrelli is the son of Maria Gambrelli (Claudia Cardinale) and the deceased Inspector Clouseau! With the son of Clouseau on the case, the kidnappers led by the nefarious Hans Zarba (Robert Davi) may have a chance at getting away with their schemes - if they can survive his genetically-infused bumbling antics.
As a kid, I remember getting excited when we went to the theater and the trailer for Son of the Pink Panther ran. Coming from a household that absolutely loves Peter Sellers' Pink Panther films, we were pretty excited about a new entry in the franchise. Then the film arrived where the only laughter heard was as the film unceremoniously left theater screens. In certain, markets Son of the Pink Panther didn't even get to enjoy a theatrical run at all and was dumped as a straight-to-video title. Even on video, rental stores carried little more than a single copy allowing the film to waste away into obscurity. In point of fact, it wasn't until the film reached a premium movie channel several years after it was released before I even saw Roberto Benigni's spin on the material.
Suffice to say, I'm not a huge fan of this film in any way. Much like Curse of the Pink Panther, Son of the Pink Panther yet again feels like cobbled together plot points and gags of a better Pink Panther film intended for the legendary Peter Sellers. Benigni does his best to showcase his robust klutzy comedic timing - and he is genuinely pretty funny - but the film itself feels tired and uninspired. Blake Edwards' script and his direction feels that of a bored man trying to find some measure of inspiration. Unfortunately, the only thing Edwards found was retirement. This would be his last feature film to reach theater screens.
Son of the Pink Panther would also be the final feature film appearance of the late Herbert Lom who passed away in 2012 and the final original score from composer Henry Mancini who would pass away shortly after this film's release. Considering that sad legacy, it's a bit difficult to view Son of the Pink Panther as anything but a titanic failure. But at the same time, even in spite of it being yet another unnecessary sequel, I don't view the film as terrible, just not very good. There are some great moments peppered throughout as Benigni brings a grand use of physical comedy while Herbert Lom is in fine form as the stressed-to-the-max Dreyfus. Their moments together work well and it's a shame that there wasn't a better movie to showcase their dynamic. But, like any franchise that has stayed passed its welcome, the Pink Panther films ran out steam and laughter with Curse of the Pink Panther. Granted, I would say that this is a better film than Curse, but not by much. And certainly not by enough to call this a true heir of the Sellers/Edwards Panther throne.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Son of the Pink Panther arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber through their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing cover artwork for other Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
As the most recent of the original Blake Edwards helmed films, Son of the Pink Panther arrives on Blu-ray with a pleasing 2.35:1 1080p transfer. Close up shots and middles look pretty decent as there is an appreciable amount of film grain and detail, but wide shots and establishing scenes can appear a bit soft in places. Details are there but aren't quite as sharp or as fine as one would see in a more recent restoration. There is also a tad bit of strobing present. Colors are on point but can appear a bit bleached in places making some flesh tones appear too pale but otherwise colors are robust with a strong primary presence. Black levels are solid but the image as a whole lacks a certain amount of desired depth. The print sourced for this transfer is in decent shape, some slight speckling without any severe damage. All in all, this is a decent transfer, not amazing, but far from being the worst thing out there.
Son of the Pink Panther arrives with a strong English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track. Dialogue has a strong emphasis throughout and never suffers from any interference from outside elements. The Mancini score is robust and plays as it should dominating certain sequences while underscoring mood and tension when and where necessary. Sound effects are also given a boost to heighten comedic moments, but there is still a natural quality to them that doesn't sound too fake or canned. Free of any hiss or pops this mix is in fine shape and fits the needs of the film nicely.
Of the Pink Panther films to arrive on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber, Son of the Pink Panther enjoys the most robust assortment. The Jason Simos commentary track is very good and offers up a ton of information and backstory about the production while a pair of deleted scenes, a vintage making-of featurette, and a collection of Pink Panther trailers round out the rest of the bonus features.
Audio Commentary with Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society
Deleted Scenes (SD 3:36) This material has been sourced from a foreign release as the voices sound dubbed over in Spanish. They're amusing bits, playing towards Edwards penchant for bawdy humor, Gambrelli playing with a condom like it was a balloon was a particularly amusing moment.
Making Of (SD 7:06) This is a vintage piece of promotional material that follows the typical EPK material.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:09)
Extended Alternate Trailer (SD 2:09)
Trail of the Pink Panther (SD 2:10)
Revenge of the Pink Panther (SD 2:11)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (SD 2:43)
Return of the Pink Panther (SD 2:11)
A Shot in the Dark (SD 3:44)
The Pink Panther (SD 3:51)
With Son of the Pink Panther, a once mighty comedic franchise limps to a close. While the film itself fares a bit better than Curse of the Pink Panther, the film itself was an unnecessary exercise in redundancy. The franchise ended with the death of Peter Sellers and even with the involvement of Blake Edwards serving as writer and director, the weight on Roberto Benigni's shoulders was too much to keep this film standing for long. Hardly the worst in the franchise's history - I personally bestow that honor upon the heads of the 2006 and 2009 remake films. Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done a good job bringing this film to Blu-ray with a solid A/V presentation as well as a nice assortment of bonus features to pick through. Fans and completionists will want to add this one to the collection while newcomers may want to give it a rent to make sure the film is worth the price of admission.