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Around the World in 80 Days /

Rated: PG

Starring: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Jim Broadbent, Kathy Bates, John Cleese

Directed by: Frank Coraci

Produced by: Hal Lieberman, Bill Badalato
Written by: David Titcher, David Benullo, David Goldstein
Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures


Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan in Disney's Around the World in 80 Days

Cecile de France and Steve Coogan in Disney's Around the World in 80 Days
Steve Coogan and Rob Schneider in Walt Disney's Around the World in 80 Days

     Not in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger would both participate in a remake of the classic adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel, Around the World in 80 Days. While I have not seen the original film, I’m definitely sure that it didn’t contain any kung-fu fighting sequences or cast members who held gubernatorial positions. But, in a sense, these are some of the qualities which make this update a worthy one. It is an entirely silly picture, but this isn’t to say it isn’t supremely entertaining. Why am I not granting it a rating higher than one that represents a marginal recommendation? Only because, despite its charm, material of this nature doesn’t even have the potential to be any more deserving of such.

     Everyone is familiar with the story of the famous tale, but predictability isn’t really an issue here. When he robs The Bank of England of a small Jade Buddha figure, which was stolen from his homeland, Lau Xing (Jackie Chan), needs to be hidden until he can deliver the prized icon back to the small town in China that it belongs in. His only apparent option, as he is chased down the street by the police with the Buddha in hand, is to work as a valet for the inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), who is experimenting on the other side of the fence, which borders the sidewalk. He decides to pose under the name Passepartout (he has to have French blood to qualify for the position). Fogg is always inventing means of travel that the British Academy of Sciences reject; they frown upon his constant yearning to make improvements to a “Golden Age”. Before long, he makes a bet with them that he can circle the globe in eighty days, to prove the advances of travel. If he completes the task, the chairman position of the Academy will be awarded to him. This is the perfect way for “Passepartout” to quickly scurry back to China, as he plans to leave Fogg on the journey, when they reach his town. The trip isn’t an easy one, though. “Passepartout” is closely trailed by the Chinese mafia, who originally stole the Jade Buddha from its home, and intend on keeping it under their clutches.

     The picture is nothing more than a two-hour-long theme park ride, playing just like one in terms of execution. There are bumps along the way; bright, enchanting visuals; and even some hidden references to old Hollywood. The only difference between the two is that Around the World in 80 Days probably cost less to make than say, Disneyland’s The Matterhorn. This doesn’t mean that the budget wasn’t whopping, though; at $110 million dollars, the visuals never cease to be anything less than amazing. They are remarkably breezy to watch, as well; perhaps too much so. In fact, the whole experience feels so light and effervescent, you’ll likely forget it entirely, only a week after you see it.

     The director of Around the World in 80 Days, Frank Coraci, has only made two other well-known movies in his entire career. These are The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer, two of the funniest Adam Sandler projects, regardless of their mediocrity. His style is the same here as it was in comedies, focusing on bright colors and tons of different camera angles per scene, in attempts to visually lift the audience’s spirits. The technique works, too; no matter how flat a scene may fall, Around the World in 80 Days is always serves as a feel-good time.

     Remaking Around the World in 80 Days certainly wasn’t a very good idea; turning it into a fun comedy of sorts from an epic-adventure was an insurmountable task. Somehow, though, Corcaci and his cast make the movie somewhat of a worthwhile one, even though it does have more than a few drawbacks. Call me crazy, but I’m now convinced that anything Jackie Chan touches instantly becomes tolerable. Even the worst of his movies—The Medallion, Rush Hour 2, and The Tuxedo—haven’t been entirely painful. And while his magical palms somehow manage to drop Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character’s prized statue, they certainly don’t allow Around the World in 80 Days to plummet on the whole. The movie may not be anything special, but it is abundant in watchable entertainment. This, to me, reams to be just fine.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (6.17.2004)

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