"Around the World in 80 Days"
by Kevin Carr
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|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
Jackie Chan as PASSPARTOUT/LAU XING
Steven Coogan as PHILEAS FOGG
Cecile De France as MONIQUE LA ROCHE
Jim Broadbent as LORD KELVIN
Ewen Bremner as INSPECTOR FIX
Directed by: Frank Coraci
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It’s been a long time since I’d seen the original “Around the World in 80 Days.” In fact, I was pretty young when I saw it and ended up falling asleep. I’m sure if the old version had the slapstick from this new version (and the shorter running time), I would have probably liked it better.
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This new version has made some changes. Instead of David Niven’s overconfident hero, Steven Coogan plays Phileas Fogg with much more vulnerability. Also, the filmmakers decided to make Fogg an inventor to capture more of Jules Verne in the role. They also added the historical blowhard Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent) as the bad guy. Otherwise, it was made in the same spirit of the original, featuring a huge slate of cameos from everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Cleese to the Wilson Brothers and Rob Schneider.
In this version, the focus is much more on Jackie Chan’s Passepartout than Phileas Fogg. Passepartout has stolen the Jade Buddha (which looks like alarming cheap, incidentally, like something you’d pick up at a two-bit flea market) from the Bank of London. He poses as Phileas Fogg’s valet to escape the police. Fogg, a wacky inventor who has such unbelievable dreams of devising a way for men to fly and breaking the 50 mph speed barrier, is a burr in the butt of the Ministry of Science.
Lord Kelvin, the head of the Ministry wagers that Fogg won’t be able to travel around the world in 80 days. At stake is the position as the head of the Ministry of Science. Fogg, on the other hand, has wagered his lifelong desire to invent.
“Around the World in 80 Days” got a bum rap this summer. It’s box office performance was disappointing, sending Disney into a fit and capping off a string of expensive flops. I think one of the biggest problems it had was that the family film market was already filled with huge hits like “Shrek 2.”
There were plenty of things that didn’t work. Director Frank Coraci, who came from directing Adam Sandler movies, tries his hand a clean comedy. Sometimes it works, but when it doesn’t, it really doesn’t. Although the nipple-less Mark Addy was strangely refreshing (if not totally in the realm of clean comedy).
Although it is clearly a Jackie Chan vehicle, the real star in my mind is Steve Coogan. Coogan adds a lighthearted goofiness to the film and manages to be both the straight man to Chan’s antics while also being hilarious in his own right.
The DVD contains a healthy bunch of extras. First, there a good commentary by director Frank Coraci and Steven Coogan. There’s also deleted scenes with commentary. In an unusual turn, these deleted and extended scenes are actually pretty good and were removed for time constraints rather than for not working in the film. There are also several behind-the-scenes featurettes, dissecting the stunt work and the production itself.
Finally, the DVD contains an alternate beginning that was removed by studio mandate mainly because it was a little too bizarre. It was a personal success for director Coraci to get the beginning seen, all because he wanted to spotlight a CGI chicken. Yeah, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, either. But oddly enough, it actually adds a little bit to the story.
“Around the World in 80 Days” wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, and it certainly won’t live on as a classic like the original. But it wasn’t a bad movie, either. For a night of family entertainment, you could do a lot worse.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) - Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks. French and Spanish subtitles. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.