Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Around the World in 80 Days</strong> (2004)

(In French, On TV, November 2018) You’d think that a “remake” taking on not only a classic Jules Verne novel but also the legacy of an Oscar-award-winning 1950s epic movie would struggle to distinguish itself, but that’s not really the case with the 2004 version of Around the World in 80 Days, for reasons both good and abysmal. Let’s not pretend that this is a good movie: By taking the guts of the Verne novel as overlay on an unusually dumb kids’ movie featuring the “comedy” of Steve Coogan, it quickly and firmly establishes itself as a waste of potential from the very first few minutes. The accumulation of steampunk anachronisms and low comedy means that it’s hard to take the result seriously, and the various hijinks that follow only confirm this experience. The result is pretty much what we’d expect, the only flashes of wit being either upstream (Verne’s source material) or downstream (acting, special effects, set design) from the script. And yet, there is something to see here, mostly because Around the World in 80 Days is an exemplary representative of the big-budget bomb subgenre: so much money has been thrown on-screen that it’s hard to look away. Since the film co-stars Jackie Chan and features a bit of his classic blend of action and comedy, a few sequences still stand out as watered-down but still effective examples of what Chan could do in his prime. Then there’s the casting, which brings together western comedy and eastern action in combinations never seen anywhere else: Jim Broadbent, Kathy Bates (as Queen Victoria!), Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Cleese, Rob Schneider, Luke and Owen Wilson, but also Maggie Q, Karen Mok and none other than Sammo Hung as Won Fei Hung. That’s … amazing. The mixture is far less involving than the individual parts that form it, but the film is definitely worth a look if you want to see those actors and ideas thrown together. The result certainly underperforms, but it’s a ride.

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