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|Around the World in 80 Days|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Frank Coraci|
scr David Titcher, David Benullo, David Goldstein
with Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cecile De France, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Karen Joy Morris, Ian McNeice, Mark Addy, Kathy Bates, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Rob Schneider, Sammo Hung, John Cleese, Richard Branson
release US 16.Jun.04, UK 9.Jul.04
Next stop: London! De France, Coogan and Chan.
The 1956 film of Jules Verne's adventure novel isn't quite a masterpiece, but at least it has class (David Niven, Noel Coward, John Gielgud, Trevor Howard) and film history value (cameos include Marlene Dietrich, Buster Keaton, Frank Sinatra, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, even a young Shirley MacLaine). This version, on the other hand, feels like the next instalment in Jackie Chan's Shanghai Noon series.
In the late 1800s, a Chinese thief (Chan) is hiding out as Passepartout, valet of goofy inventor Phileas Fogg (Coogan), who wagers with Lord Kelvin (Broadbent) that he can circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. This is convenient for Passepartout since it helps him return a priceless relic to his home village. And it's nice for Fogg, because in Paris they team up with a feisty-cute Frenchwoman (De France). But Kelvin deploys a ruthless female Chinese warlord (Morris) and an inept copper (Bremner) to stop Fogg from winning the bet.
Swapping a globe-hopping epic for a Jackie Chan action comedy is a bit of a let-down. Yes, it's mindlessly enjoyable, but the storyline is reduced to a series of scenes that merely link together a string of elaborately choreographed (by Chan) fight scenes. Some sequences are hilarious, others feature wacky cameos, and the filmmakers have fun recreating various international locales on a Berlin movie studio backlot. Digital trickery fills in the details and is mostly eye-catching, although the sparkly transition sequences are rather iffy.
Meanwhile, the cast is thoroughly entertaining. Coogan becomes the latest gifted comic foil for Chan, providing wit and brains to Chan's energetic physicality (although isn't he a bit old for this?). The appearance of another Chan wisecracker, Owen Wilson, is a little over-familiar, especially since Wilson plays Wilbur Wright (opposite Luke's Orville) exactly like his Shanghai Noon/Knights character, or Hutch for that matter. Other cameos are one-line gags (Branson's balloon man), meaningless shtick (Cleese's befuddled bobby or Schneider's smelly hobo), inexplicable casting (Bates as Queen Victoria?) or rather good fun (Hung as a ninja warrior). But like all Jackie Chan movies, it's such offhanded fun that is seems churlish to complain. All that's missing is the closing credit outtake reel.
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