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AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS

Josh Bell

In a summer of pointless remakes, Around the World in 80 Days is ... well, pointless. It'd be nice to report that it offers a fresh take on the oft-filmed Jules Verne novel, but instead it just takes the story of madcap inventor Phileas Fogg's effort to win a bet by circumnavigating the globe in 80 days and grafts it onto a Jackie Chan movie. Since Chan's shtick has become more Three Stooges than Bruce Lee these days, the result is a weak slapstick comedy that will bore kids and adults alike.


The 1956 film is the most famous depiction of the novel, winning the Best Picture Oscar, often considered undeserved, on the strength of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach that virtually invented the celebrity cameo. Director Frank Coraci, whose previous experience includes two Adam Sandler movies, takes the empty spectacle spirit of that film to heart, throwing in a handful of familiar faces who serve no purpose other than to distract the audience from the tedium on screen with a brief flash of recognition. Hey, it's Owen and Luke Wilson as the Wright brothers! It's Kathy Bates with a half-hearted British accent as the Queen of England! It's Arnold Schwarzenegger as a vain, lecherous head of state! As surrealistically close to reality as that last one is, Coraci and his screenwriters make the daring move of wringing absolutely no humor whatsoever from their many guest stars.


In the main plot, Fogg (Eric Idle look-alike Steve Coogan) has been demoted to second fiddle to make way for Chan as valet Passepartout, originally a Frenchman but now Chinese, and hitching a ride with Fogg to return a precious artifact to his small village. Along the way, Fogg and Passepartout pick up a French artist (Cécile de France), because Fogg needs a love interest, and are pursued by Chinese baddies trying to steal the artifact, because Chan needs people to kick and punch.


And kick and punch he does, but of course no one bleeds or dies, and no guns are fired because this is a PG-rated family film. Production company Walden Media made last year's wonderful Holes, a smart, literate kids film that was seen by far too few, but 80 Days is neither smart nor literate, despite its source material, and consists almost entirely of people falling down and/or being hit on the head. At nearly two hours, it's a tedious experience that will have kids fidgeting and adults wondering why people like John Cleese, Macy Gray and even Rob Schneider couldn't find something better to do on their days off.

  • Get More Stories from Thu, Jun 17, 2004
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