by Jason Whyte
"Around The World in 80 Days" is fun at times, but it's not fun enough. It's a little bit better than the overlong, cameo-filled Michael Anderson film of 1956 in that it condenses the action down to just over two hours, and yet after a while you just want all this globetrotting to end. Part of the reason is the mixing of the always likable Jackie Chan with a rousing adventure doesn't always work, although it does make for some amusing sequences where Chan must kick and punch his way out of the action.The film opens on Passepartout (Chan) breaking out of the Bank of London with a priceless artifact. His flee sends him to Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), a bumbling inventor who has made a bet with Kelvin (Jim Broadbent) to circle around the planet in eighty days. If Fogg loses, he can never invent again. Passepartout takes this idea as a good way to flee London and get back to China, but Inspector Fix (Ewan Bremmer) is hot on their tail as well as General Fang (Karen Joy Morris).
"Around the World in 120 Minutes."
Their adventure first takes them to Paris, with Passepartout and Fogg running into Monique (Cecile De France) at an art show. Their fight out of the show is one of the most clever in the film, involving Chan, some paint, and some blank slates leaning against a wall. Escaping Paris with Monique in tow (which is not fully explained, but I think these kinds of movies need a cute girl as a companion, don't you think?), their journey leads them to more fights, runaways and stand-offs in China, the Pacific, San Fransisco, New York, the Atlantic and back to London.
The problem with the transitions in-between countries that it hides the smallness of the production. When the film ventures off into another part of the world, it does so by animated sequences that are far too heavy on computer graphics, then quickly cutting to sets and production design that look quite obvious. Although the movie does move very quickly, the way this is done gives it an artificial appearance. (At one point, the Himayalas are even shown as a transition, but there's no sequence there.)
Jackie Chan is always fun to watch. Your mileage may vary, but when he gets into a situation where he must fight his way out, it's always amusing to watch his tricks. His best fight sequence occurs in his home in China, with Sammo Hung helping fight off Fang's warriors. Chan still delivers all of his work with a smile, and I'm sure he'll still be around for a lot more. Steve Coogan, who gave the best performance in 2002 in "24 Hour Party People" and is a gifted comedian, is a bit toned down here than his Tony Wilson, but he's still amusing. And Cecile De France makes an adorable sidekick who is instantly likable.
The cameos are a mile-high, just like in the original. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been getting a lot of attention for his small bit here as a Turkish prince, and he's somewhat amusing for a while, and thankfully the gang get out of there as soon as he becomes unwelcome. Kathy Bates, the brothers Luke and Owen and even John Cleese are among the others spotted. And since Frank Coraci ("The Waterboy", "The Wedding Singer") has directed the film, Rob Schnieder is seen here briefly as a San Fransisco vagrant. His appearances in Peter Segal films are bad enough.At the end of it all, this is a middling film for one that moves at such a brisk pace. On one end, the bits with Chan fighting and the cameos are well done, and are worth a look. And yet as a whole, the production feels cheap and it runs out of momentum. It's the kind of film the "Just Average" rating was made for.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10010&reviewer=350
originally posted: 06/23/04 12:52:28