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Around the World in 80 Days
2004 - PG (for action violence, some crude humor and mild language) - 120 Mins.
Director: Frank Coraci
Producer: Phyllis Alia, Jackie Chan, Willie Chan
Written By: David N. Titcher
Starring: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cecille de France, Jim Broadbent, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Sammo Hung, Ian McNiece, Karen Mok, Rob Schneider, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wim Wenders, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Richard Branson
Review by: Joseph Kastner
   
Two imaginative authors, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, have been rediscovered by Hollywood with the latest adaptations of their works, 'War of the Worlds' and 'Around the World in 80 days' respectively. Wells wrote of the fantastic while Verne wrote of the more probable scientific scenarios. Whether or not Jules Verne was prescient, his novels still managed to capture the imagination of those who have ever dreamed of exploring the mysteries of the ocean floor or traveling the world in fantastic flying machines.

'Around the World in 80 Days' centers on the adventures of an inventor and his manservant, who make a wager with England’s scientific community to travel the world in no more then 80 days, experiencing numerous parlous, but often exciting obstacles.

Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) is a vigorous inventor whose scientific breakthroughs - such as rolling shoes (roller-skates), automatic electric lighting (via whistling), and even the possibility of human flight - have been less then welcomed at the Royal Academy of Science of England, ministered by the short-tempered Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). Fed up with Fogg’s outlandish claims of human progress, Lord Kelvin wagers that he can not circumvent the world in less then 80 days. If Fogg succeeds, Lord Kelvin will hand over his position as minister of the Royal Academy of Science. Should Fogg fail, he must tear down his laboratory and promise never to invent again.

To everyone’s surprise, including that of Lord Kelvin, Fogg accepts the wager and sets off on a global-trotting adventure with his manservant, Passpartwo (Jackie Chan), who hides a secret that may threaten not only Fogg’s scientific goal but their very lives as well. Along the way, the two encounter a variety of unique individuals including an ambitious French artist, Monique de Grave, who joins them in their travels and eventually falls in love with the bumbling scientist. In the end, the race around the world becomes more then wager but a beautiful insight into what man is willing to do to accomplish a dream.

The story for 'Around the World in 80 Days' demonstrates once again that Hollywood has no reverence for classic literature (i.e. 'Troy'), but at least makes some attempt to adhere to the spirt of the Jules Verne’s novel. The film seems to model itself on another Jackie Chan formula, 'Shanghai Noon', which co-starred Owen Wilson who coincidentally makes a cameo in this film.

In fact, 'Around the World in 80 Days' relies a lot on numerous cameos from some B-list and a few A-list talents. Steve Coogan makes the role of Phileas Fogg all his own and does exceptional work with the material. Despite the character being converted from a snobbish upperclassman to a snobbish inventor, the transformation works surprisingly well for this adaptation.

Jackie Chan, who's now 50 years old, is still able to pull-off some absolutely amazing action sequences though he has a lot of help from computer animation. His character is quite a departure from the Verne novel as Passpartout was originally French and had nothing to with a ring of Chinese acrobatic fighters. In fact, in the film adaptation he isn’t even named Passpartout, it’s Passpartwo.

And Cecille de France’s character, Monique de Grave, is a new addition, though she may be based on Aouda, who, in the novel, was a Parsee Indian princess who was rescued by Phileas Fogg and Passportout on their travels in India. Unfortunately her addition does nothing more then hinder the story. Though it's a delightful touch for the filmmakers to have a romantic interest, the novel’s version was a lot more exciting and romantic then the movie's.

Another problem with the film is that it's never clearly set in a proper place in time (the novel was set in 1872) which allows them to drop in as many historical figures and events in a two hour film as they want. Taking so many historical liberties makes the movie feel more like an over-used joke. But as much as there is to complain about the film’s lack of originality and its less then faithful adaption of the Jules Verne novel, 'Around the World in 80 Days' is not a complete train wreck. It does contain several humorous moments sure to entertain the younger crowd it is aimed at and enough Jackie Chan fights to keep the adults watching. It's another summer distraction for those who have seen 'Shrek 2' or 'Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban' way too many times.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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