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Gavin Greig [userpic]

Around the World in 80 Days

July 11th, 2004 (12:09 pm)
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(I wrote this review of Around the World in 80 Days last weekend for some friends, but thought I might give it a wider audience.)

Don't go out of your way to see it, but it might be good for a rainy afternoon.

Steve Coogan isn't too bad as Phileas Fogg, although he's changed from a gentleman of independent and mysterious means to a crackpot inventor. The scientific establishment is represented by Jim Broadbent (Lord Kelvin, conservative, stupid and wicked) and cronies (Colonel Kitchener, Lord Salisbury, Lord Rhodes, all conservative, stupid and weak). Jackie Chan is Jackie Chan pretending to be a bank robber who is secretly a good guy pretending to be Passepartout. Cécile de France is a cloakroom attendant with artistic pretensions who latches onto Fogg at an Impressionist exhibition in Paris, replacing the Indian lady of the original.

It's very much a romp, with both Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan having done better elsewhere, though there are hints of real acting from Coogan. It mostly follows the route of the original, and has the basic plot features of the wager, but otherwise takes significant liberties - most notably the foundations of the plot and the wager in the theft of the Jade Buddha from Jackie's home village in China. Most of the difficulties in transit come from this source, in the shape of female Chinese warlord General Fang and her goons, rather than the machinations of Inspector Fix. He is present but is never more than a secondary threat.

It sometimes feels a bit disjointed, jumping straight from Turkey to India and from Northern China to San Francisco, for example, with only rather Disneyish animations of the intervening voyage - typically a zoom out from the first location, whoosh across the globe, then a zoom in to a caricature of the new location, accompanied by some rather spacey transitions. I was a bit taken aback by the locomotive that began emitting purple smoke and fairy twinkles while the track began to concertina in front of it.

It does have its good points. You could hardly call them subtle, but some of the Parisian scenes might appeal most - there are cameos for van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec and possibly others I'm too ignorant to pick up on, and a balloon "borrowed" by the protagonists to leave Paris is being hired out for rides by the founder of a well-known record label and airline business. Perhaps the best moment, though, was the escape from the Impressionist exhibition through a trompe l'oeil painting on the wall.

Arnie Schwarzenegger makes a lacklustre appearance as a Turkish potentate - as in "would you like chips or potentates with that?"