AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
In late Victorian England, stuffy members of the Royal Academy of Science regard eccentric inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) as a crackpot. When Fogg claims the world can be circumnavigated in 80 days he is offered a £10,000 wager by the Academy president Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). If Fogg can circle the globe in the allotted time, Kelvin will resign his position and allow Fogg to replace him. If Fogg fails, he must promise to abandon his scientific experiments. With the help of French-Chinese bank robber Passepartout (Jackie Chan) and aspiring French artist Monique (Cecile De France), Fogg sets off on a whirlwind dash via France, Turkey, China, India and the United States.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
There's a wonderful moment in the opening section of this adaptation of Jules Verne's trusty adventure. Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) has just lost the services of his ancient valet after an experiment gone awry. Jackie Chan suddenly appears after having stolen a priceless jade Buddha from the Bank of England and the short-staffed Fogg asks him if he's "willing to challenge the laws of physics as we know them". Chan's been doing just that for the better part of three decades and his eager response to the offer makes for one of those priceless examples of perfect harmony between the character and the actor playing the role.
Chan may be pushing 50 now but you'd hardly know it from the moves he pulls off here. Still able to put most so-called action stars to shame, he leaps and dances his way through this cheerfully goofy version of the tale. Chan dominates proceedings as expected, though this is hardly a one-man show, with Coogan a restrained delight as the oddball Fogg and Belgian actress Cecile De France making a charming impression in a role that turns out to be more than simply decorative.
Filmed many times, Jules Verne's story was most famously adapted in 1956. That version directed by Michael Anderson won the Best Picture Oscar and started the trend of casting famous faces in fleeting roles. This brightly polished new take on the classic continues the tradition, with appearances by John Cleese as a London policeman, Luke and Owen Wilson as The Wright Brothers, Kathy Bates as Queen Victoria and, best of all, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the outrageously hospitable Turkish prince Hapi. This was Big Arnie's final role before becoming California Governor and he performs as if he's still at the post-election party. Complete with long curly locks and flashing that big "you like me, don't you" smile he's perfected over the years, Arnie is hilarious as he invites his guests into the hot tub and reminisces about the dignitaries he's enjoyed splashing around with. If he never makes another movie, the one-time Mr Universe has signed off in grand style here.
With its spirit more in keeping with The Three Stooges Go Around The World In A Daze (1963) than the letter of Verne's text, this isn't a classic by any means but for pure escapism and willingness to please it delivers the goods.
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AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (PG)
CAST: Steve Coogan, Jackie Chan, Jim Broadbent, Cecile De France
PRODUCER: Bill Badalato, Hal Lieberman
DIRECTOR: Frank Coraci
SCRIPT: David N. Titcher, David Benullo, David Goldstein
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phil Meheux
EDITOR: Tom Lewis
MUSIC: Trevor Jones, David A. Stewart
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Perry Andelin Blake
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 26, 2004
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
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