Around the World in 80 Days (2004)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Loads of fun.

Throughout the last week of the month, I have been going through a few Jackie Chan American movies. I mentioned about how sometimes Jackie Chan’s fight choreography turns a bit too cartoonish and more like a dance than an actual fight. Then, I mentioned how sometimes it can be a good thing, and a prime example of when this is good is in Around the World in 80 Days, a Disney film that really puts Jackie Chan to good use. I saw this film, I believe, twice in theater because I remember liking it so much. How does it measure up now? Still pretty darn good.

Phileas Fogg is an English inventor with incredibly big dreams. In short, he kind of wants to be the Wright Brothers, because his main goal in life is to invent a machine that will allow man to fly. Humorously, the Wright Brothers actually show up in this film, but we’ll get around to that. When the Bank of England is robbed by Passepartout (Jackie Chan), he pretends to be a French valet for Mr. Fogg to stay away from the cops. At the Ministry of Science, Fogg claims a man can travel around the globe in no more than eighty days, in which he is immediately laughed at. The Ministry then asks Fogg to prove it and do it himself. Challenge accepted, says he, as he and Passepartout head East. Along the way, they run into unforgettable people and remarkable locations, but when the Ministry of Science hires someone to slow Fogg down, what will happen?

The main reason Fogg is doing this is not only to prove himself to the MInsitry and the world, but because if he wins, he will take over as head of the Ministry of Science. The reason Passepartout is doing it is to secretly get back to China, to return an ancient relic that his village was robbed of years ago. Rule number one in movies dealing with secres, as you probably know, is that nothing remains a secret in a film…almost ever. Secrets come out, so the main question is what will Fogg do when he learns that his valet is lying to him and using him? Normally, I’d say that’s kind of predictable, but not in this case, because that’s to be expected anyways. What’s not predictable is everything else in the film.

Now, the first thing that you’re going to realize with this film is that it’s Disney. There’s no getting around it. The film exudes the Disney pride. One of the songs in the credits is even “It’s a Small World After All”…Totally unnecessary, but I get the relevancy. Also, it’s very light-toned, very colorful, jokes are everywhere, the graphic transitions are clearly over-the-top, and Jackie Chan’s fights were more dances than they were fights. Even so, it all fit together seamlessly, and it felt right. I personally wouldn’t have it any other way. The graphic transitions obviously looked fake because they were supposed to. It’s a form of art and film style and it seemed to fit perfectly within the context of the film.

There was obviously a lot of different locations used throughout the film, and those locations were brilliant. There’s a lot of world out there, and a lot of different places they ultimately could have chosen to do, but the ones they did were again, great choices. Each setting was beautiful and sets it apart from other movies like it. Which, by the way, this is a remake of a movie based on a book and well…I can’t say how close it is to the original source and I really couldn’t care less. I just like the movie for the movie. So sue me.

The acting/characters is what I want to talk about next. Jackie Chan is great, of course, but let’s focus on Steve Coogan and Cecile De France for now. As a trio, this gang is perfect. I sensed the chemistry between each actor, and Coogan and France’s romantic chemistry was strikingly apparent as well. The rest of the cast was filled to the brim with well-known a-class actors showing up for cameo roles. Each one was brilliant, including the inclusion of the Wright Brothers, played by Owen and Luke Wilson. This was cool for two main reasons 1.) They really are brothers, and I don’t know if I’ve actually seen them in anything together…ever other than this. 2.) At this point, Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan had just finished filming together for both Shanghai Knights films the year before. So to see them together in yet another film that took place in the past was pretty cool in general.

The Good:
Locations, locations, locations. There is a lot of good to say about how this film was made, and a lot of that has to do with the locations. Also, the chemistry between Coogan, Chan, and France are to die for. The cartoony fight sequences don’t drown out the story, and complete the film, making it feel “just right”.

The Bad:
I don’t have a lot of complaints, but if there was one, it would have to be that it felt too Disney-fied. Oh, and there should have been more Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was his last role before he was governor of California and the girly men, for crying out loud!

Memorable Quote:

Monique La Roche: Where’s your proof?

Lord Kelvin: This is the Royal Academy of Science! We don’t have to prove anything!

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