‘Around the World in 80 Days’ is a trip not worth taking

Jackie Chan falters in 'Around the World in 80 Days'
Jackie Chan falters in ‘Around the World in 80 Days’

[rating=2]Starring: Jackie Chan, Steven Coogan, Cecile de France, Jim Broadbent
Director(s): Frank Coraci
Writer(s): Screenplay by David Titcher, David Benullo and David Goldstein, based upon the novel by Jules Verne

A film like Around the World in 80 Days is a story that harkens back to the golden days of live-action Disney films such as Mary Poppins and Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang. Set in the late 1800s or early 1900s, these films had magic and fun and memorable music.

However, this present version of Around the Worldfails to capture even a hint of that old magic. It fails largely because it relies too much on the antics of Jackie Chan, who is far from Dick Van Dyke and who’s impressive fight and stunt choreography grew old quite some years ago.

I think this film would have worked had they simply used a different actor. And, ironically, that actor is actually in the film. Rob Schneider is one of several familiar film stars who makes a cameo appearance in this movie. He appears as a hobo in San Francisco. When he showed up, it hit me that he should have been the one playing the Jackie Chan role. Not to say that Schneider is a present day Van Dyke, but I think he could have brought more warmth and heart to the film. Plus, his talents with physical comedy far outweigh Chan’s tired fight gags.

Another reason Chan drags the film down is that his role adds in an entire storyline that isn’t particularly interesting, nor does it really have anything to do with the overall concept of the film — a race to get around the world in 80 days. It’s as if the whole subplot was pumped up in order to justify having Chan in the film (who also serves as one of the executive producers).

Jackie Chan and Steven Coogan in 'Around the World in 80 Days'
Jackie Chan and Steven Coogan in ‘Around the World in 80 Days’

I’m probably being a little hard on the Chinese film legend, but I honestly feel the film would simply have worked better and been more enjoyable had he not been in it. Of course, the lowest point of the film actually has nothing to do with him. It does, however, concern another notable film legend turned California governor.

Arnold Swartzenegger!

I actually cringed a little at his point. Seeing Arnold in a silly wig, strumming a lute and surrounded by belly dancers, I had to just shake my head. What on Earth were they thinking by this casting choice? What was Arnold thinking when he agreed to do it?

In the end, the film also lacked any real scope. Although by the time the travelers arrive in the United States, you learn that their journey has become a world wide story, the film doesn’t feel that way. Part of me felt it was because of the digital effects used when they shifted from location to location. The world and landscapes are all special effects, with no real photography, which makes the movie feel claustrophobic.

Even with all these flaws, the film did come through with a good chuckle every now and again. The funniest moment for me was when Phileas Fogg, played rather well by Steven Coogan, shows Chan one of his latest inventions — electric lights that turn on when you whistle. Plus, one of the fight sequences in an art gallery is actually pretty clever.

As for the DVD, it’s pretty much your basic package: behind-the-scenes doc, audio commentary, deleted scenes, etc. There’s also an alternate version of that film that features a slightly different opening.

The behind-the-scenes documentary is your usual sweet and nice fluff, but what I found rather annoying about it was that it never tells you who any of the people are when they talk. Some of them you can kind of figure out, but there’s one dark haired woman who keeps popping up, and I had no clue who she was.

The deleted scenes are mostly just extensions of scenes, and understandably cut from the film. A few, however, are alternate versions of what was actually shown in the movie and do prove interesting to watch. There’s also a music video that’s actually visually intriguing, and the tune rather enjoyable.

In the end, my judgment would be that this film could possibly have been much better, but was unfortunately molded to fit Jackie Chan’s style.

Rated: PG
Run Time:  2 hrs.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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