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Around The World In 80 Days

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Around The World In 80 Days

Starring: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan
Director: Frank Coraci
Rated: PG
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genres: Action, Comedy

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Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

Ask people what they would do if they knew they had only a year to live, and you're likely to get the answer "travel the world," as though an experience with cultures other than your own would be a fitting and exciting conclusion to a well-lived life. As you watch Frank Coraci's version of "Around the World in 80 Days," you might be prompted to change your views, because while the cultures seen in China, India and Turkey are even more diverse at the close of the 19th Century than they are today, you get the impression that anywhere you go outside of home would put you in jeopardy of losing your remaining few months. Whereas Michael Anderson's well-spent 167 minutes in the 1956 version of the movie starring David Niven and Cantinflas gratefully used no computer generated images, Niven's sophistication is lost on Steve Coogan and Cantinflas's charm is sadly missing in Jackie Chan.

Though Anderson's "Around the World" featured even more cameo appearances than Coraci's (40–count ‘em), leading viewers to star-gaze, brief appearances by the likes of Kathy Bates as Queen Victoria, Arnold Schwarzenegger as Turkish Prince Hapi and Owen and Luke Wilson as the Wright Brothers do little to advance what little story there is. Essentially, Jules Verne's novel, as adapted for the screen by a committee of three forgoes plot in favor of pratfalls while story bows out in favor of stereotypes.

police after lifting an invaluable jade Buddha from the London museum, a statue that was stolen by Imperial Britain from a small Chinese village and destined to be returned by a Lao Xing, who goes under the name of Passepartout. Lao quickly hitches a ride with Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan "24-Hour Party People," "Coffee and Cigarettes"), an inventor who makes a wager with the head of the Royal Academy of Science, the pompous Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). If Fogg can circumnavigate the globe within 80 days, Kelvin promises to resign his chairmanship in Fogg's favor. If Fogg fails, he agrees to dismantle his laboratory and never again practice science because, as one lord states, everything that can be invented has already been offered.

This road-, water- and air-buddy movie is an excuse for Coraci to plunge Passpartout and Fogg and also an impressionist painter they pick up in Paris, Monique (Cecile De France), into life-threatening dangers. As though getting about the globe in under 3 months were not difficult enough, the three must extricate themselves from fighters known as the Black Scorpions, who attempt to stop the trio dead in their tracks. Pratfall follows pratfall, with Jackie Chan again executing his martial arts moves with the help of some computer generation, Cecile De France nurturing a budding romance with Steve Coogan, and the three slamming into walls, toppling statues, and regularly saving one another's lives. A cameo by Governor Schwarzenegger is the one gem of the film, a role that has Arnold fitted out as a Turkish prince eager to make Monique his seventh wife, "one for each night of the week" and "Would Tuesdays work for you?"

If you seek wit and sophistication in a movie about world travel, rent the videocassette of the 1956 film of the same name. If you prefer tumbles and goofs and have not had your fill of martial arts, the current rendition will do just fine.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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