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The World In 80 Days
Around The World In 80 Days|
cast: Jackie Chan, Steve Cooghan, Cécile De France, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jim Broadbent
director: Frank Coraci
115 minutes (PG) 2004
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail
reviewed by Patrick Hudson
This film is not an adaptation of Jules Verne's 1873 novel Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingt
jours, but rather a loose remake of the 1956 film Around The World In 80 Days
(which starred David Niven), itself only loosely based on the events in Verne's novel.
In his classic novels, Verne wrote action-packed scientific romances, celebrating the
growing role of technology in Victorian Europe. It seems to be his fate to be interpreted
in English as a juvenile author, and films based on his work inevitably follow the same
This version, starring Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg and Jackie Chan as Passepartout,
sticks to the cartoonish, family-friendly formula. Coogan plays Fogg as a lovable,
head-in-the-clouds boffin who is thirsty for knowledge beyond the limitations imposed
by the conservative bureaucrats of the Royal Society, embodied in the unlikely figure
of the eminent Victorian scientist and peer Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). Standing in
for the familiar Reform Club bet for �20,000, Kelvin bets Fogg the leadership of the
Royal Society itself if he can traverse the globe in 80 days. Kelvin and his cronies
(Lords Salisbury, Kitchener and Rhodes) then proceed to do their best to thwart Fogg's
mission lest he prove himself the better scientist.
Along for the ride is Jackie Chan as Passepartout, on the run from the law after stealing
a jade Buddha from the British Museum. This is part of a complicated subplot involving
an evil Chinese warlord, General Fang (Karen Joy Morris), which ties Chan's martial arts
into the story. In France, they pick up tea lady and wannabe impressionist painter Monique
La Roche (Cécile De France) to provide Fogg's love interest.
Pursued by Inspector Fix (Ewen Bremner) and Fang's lackeys, the gang get through various
comic scrapes to finally achieve their goal. Along the way, Fogg learns that love and
dreams are more important than science, and falls for the beautiful artist who has learned
to look beneath Fogg's nerdy exterior to see the beauty of his heart. As with every movie
aimed at younger viewers these days, it commends the viewer to follow their dreams, trust
their heart and believe in themselves.
Like its predecessor, this is part of a tradition of films based on comically old-fashioned
situations relying on celebrity cameos to jolly them along. This sub-genre really flowered
in the 1960s, with title movies like It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963), Those
Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines (1965) and Those Daring Young Men in Their
Jaunty Jalopies (1969), packing the houses with their mix of slapstick, crazy effects,
a love story and maybe a song or two on the way. It's a bit of an old fashioned idea now,
but this film follows the formula including cameos from Macy Gray, Mark Addy, Arnold
Schwarzengegger (in uncharacteristically good comic form), Mark Addy, Rob Schneider,
Owen and Jack Wilson and Jackie Chan's regular off-sider, Sammo Hung.
Needless to say, the action here has only a passing similarity to Verne's novel. Most
tellingly, the heavy-handed anti-science theme of this film will likely have Verne
spinning in his grave faster than the mighty dynamos that he imagined powering the
world. Even more alarming is the portrayal of Kelvin, a prodigious inventor and theoriser,
a great man of science and precisely the type that Verne lionised in his fiction. Here
he is a vacuous pantomime villain, a characterisation so wrong, on so many levels, that
it verges on slander.
Coogan does a reasonable job with Fogg, but I struggle to find him a convincing romantic
hero. De France is suitably glamorous and smiles fetchingly when she talks about rainbows,
dreams and following your heart. However, the movie really belongs to Chan - an executive
producer - and your enjoyment of it will depend largely on your enjoyment (or tolerance)
of Chan's style of martial arts and slapstick stunts. Despite his undeniable physical
abilities, his comic acting (in English, at least) is rudimentary - it's a pretty poor
show when Ah-nuld provides a funnier turn than the comic lead!
This is a passable comedy adventure for younger viewers, but the cameos and weak jokes
don't quite sustain adult interest. As such, you can delete a mark for adults, but kids
will probably get a kick out of it.
Extras on the DVD are scene selection, a director's commentary, an alternate opening,
deleted scenes (most deservedly so), a making-of featurette and Jackie Chan's video
diaries. Some of this may hold interest (the deleted scenes and alternate opening are
at least brief) but one wonders if this run-of-the-mill comedy really deserves a second
viewing just to hear the director narrate the details of production.