The Pink Panther theme music is one of the most recognizable songs in the United States. So recognizable in fact, that we need only hear the infamous “duh-duh, duh-dum” to correctly identify the song and finish the tune. In the 2006 hit movie The Pink Panther, variations of the renowned song are played in almost every scene with music. The versatility of the song shows that The Pink Panther is not an old classic or a childlike film, but is very fun and modern, and appeals to a variety of audiences.
Emotion is pivotal in drawing an audience in. In their book Everything’s an Argument, Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz support this claim that “If you strike the right emotional note, you’ll establish an important connection” (51). Music can be a key influence in evoking emotions. In this movie, the music is used primarily to promote humor. The suavity of the pink panther music completely contradicts the absurdity of Steve Martin’s character, adding an element of irony. Consider the scene where Inspector Clouseau’s finger gets stuck in Nicole’s apartment door; while Clouseau carefully inspects the door frame, the music plays in a very rich, fluid melody that seems to hang in the air. This gives a tense, on-edge mood to the scene in which the audience is captivated and waiting for some sort of action. The music continues to lag until Nicole shuts the door on Clouseau’s finger, leaving him hanging from the top of the door frame. At this point in the scene, the speed and intensity of the music picks up substantially, insinuating to the audience that this fast pace music is the sort of panicky reaction they should have. In his book, Understanding Movies, Author Lous Giannetti explains that fast, high-pitched sounds produce tension that can be very unnerving (208). The sudden, drastic contrast of the music startles the audience and leaves their hearts beating as fast as the tempo.
The same musicality is also depicted in the “fight scene” in which Inspector Clouseau dances around while his assistant, Ponton, fights off several men in suits. The scene begins with Clouseau and Ponton following Xania (Beyonce’s character) into a dark, obscure garage then waiting for the elevator. The pink panther song playing here has a very “James Bond” feel and sounds like something that you would typically hear in an action movie during a chase. As the elevator arrives and the men step out, the music gets very low and begins to trail off suggesting anxiety or mystery (Gianetti 208). There is a pause in the song where Clouseau and Ponton look at each other and the audience holds their breath. Then the music erupts, loud and fast to arouse surprise. The prolonged gong sound at the end of the scene seems to symbolize the end of a boxing match and the partners’ victory. The absurdity of Clouseau’s behavior fused with the seriousness and suspense of the music adds irony and plays into the comedy of the scene.
Typically when there is a funny dialogue, there is little or no background music because the humor is in the wit of the lines. The purpose of the music is to supplement the humor when there is no dialogue by influencing the audience how they should feel and react. The slow, jazzy songs mixed with a few fast tempo fragments create diversity and excitement. It personifies Clouseau’s character by being seemingly sophisticated, then breaking out in a loud obnoxious moment. I personally thought the repetition of the pink panther theme song was a little overdone; however, the song is varied in pitch, tempo, and intensity, which enhances the comedy and appeals to a variety of different audiences.