February 13, 2009 / 5:44 PM / 9 years ago

Martin laughs off criticism of "Pink Panther 2"

<p>Actor Steve Martin poses with a person wearing a pink panther costume during a photocall to promote the movie "Pink Panther 2" at the 59th Berlinale film festival in Berlin, February 13, 2009.Johannes Eisele</p>

BERLIN (Reuters) - U.S. actor Steve Martin dismissed negative reviews of the latest installment of the Pink Panther movie franchise, saying comedies always had to overcome critical snobbery and that the genre was "not a critics' medium."

"I have received bad reviews my whole life," Martin said on Friday as he presented "Pink Panther 2" at the Berlin film festival, his second turn as bungling French detective Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a role made famous by Peter Sellers.

"I received bad reviews when I started with my stand-up act. 'The Jerk', one of my most enduring comedy films, was universally panned in America. And comedies always have to overcome critical snobbery," said Martin, 63.

"It's just the way it is. And so you go, oh, well, okay, why are these movies that you've criticized so archly still around 10 years later, 15 years later, 20 years later. It's because comedy is not a critics' medium. It just isn't."

The film, which took $12 million at its opening weekend in the United States -- down 40 percent on Martin's first outing as Clouseau in 2006 -- has garnered a host of hostile reviews.

The Washington Post said the "Pink Panther 2" was "clawless" and Martin "clueless" as Clouseau. In Britain, The Times described to the movie as "a tedious string of pratfalls."

Jokes in the fast-paced comedy got chuckles in the Berlin screening, but the laughter was more palpable as Martin made fun of himself and the cast in the following news conference.

"Not only was Johnny Hallyday a great sinister character, he also played one of the best dead bodies I've ever seen," Martin said of the French singer who co-starred in the movie.

POPE'S BLESSING?

Later Martin was asked how he felt the Pope would respond to a scene in which Clouseau impersonates the Pontiff.

"Actually, he requested me," Martin quipped to more laughs.

When a reporter asked Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the Bollywood actress who stars in the film, if she saw herself as a role model for girls in India, she hesitated. Martin did not.

"I know I do," Martin answered, shortly before launching into a 1-1/2 minute banjo performance to loud applause.

The film, directed by Dutch-born Norwegian Harald Zwart, also features John Cleese as Martin's boss Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Frenchman Jean Reno as Clouseau's sidekick Ponton as well as Alfred Molina and Andy Garcia as rival sleuths.

Looking relaxed and dressed smartly in a jacket and tie, Martin was asked whether he had asked the Pope's permission to shoot a lengthy scene set in the Vatican.

"We didn't ask permission because we didn't shoot in the Vatican. But I think the Catholic Church has been kidded and joked about for years. They're just used to it," Martin said.

"I believe the Catholic Church is very smart not to go crazy about it. When a religion is kidded and they get very serious, I think it shows they're insecure," he added. "I think the Catholic Church will probably last longer than this film."

Editing by Paul Casciato

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