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Around the World in 80 Days, the Jules Verne classic, has been given new life with this remake. However, new life isn't always a good idea, as director Frank Coraci, along with a trio of screenwriters, seems to have taken the "mad scientist" approach to family-friendly filmmaking. The result is, indeed, a cinematic experiment gone very, very wrong.
Apparently, it was not enough to simply re-tell the original tale in an entertaining way. Transplanted into the plotline is Jackie Chan, who steals the thunder away from the rightful main character, oh, what's his name... oh yeah, Phileas Fogg. So much for the fanciful adventures of an eccentric English gentleman, embarking on a grand journey to win a bet and broaden his cultural horizons. Why settle for that when you can have Jackie Chan fighting off a bunch of killer ninjas?
Now, nothing against Jackie Chan. He's a wonderful performer. It's just that he's placed himself into the middle of an absolute mess! Jackie plays Fogg's valet, Passepartout, who has a secret motive for following Fogg on his quest to circle the globe. You see, Passepartout, whose real name is Lau Xing, must return a stolen artifact, the Jade Buddha, to his village in China before an evil gang of assassins can get their hands on it. In other words, it's a Jackie Chan action flick for the Disney crowd, and grave-spinning news for Jules Verne.
What follows is an odd mix of "race-against-time" adventure with extremely broad slapstick farce, frequently interrupted by tamely choreographed martial arts sequences. As a result, Around the World in 80 Days plays exactly like it sounds - like two completely different movies mashed into one. It's a shame that neither of those movies had a decent screenplay! The overall tone of the film seems to favor seven-year-olds but, even on that level, it only barely succeeds.
On a positive note, Steve Coogan does his best to keep some dignity alive for his supporting character of Phileas Fogg. Coogan's performance, though it often approaches Nutty Professor territory, is the only one worthy of the original story. There is also a bit of fun to be had with the many required cameo appearances by other entertainers, a callback nod to the 1956 production starring David Niven. That pretty much wraps things up for the good side of things.
So, if you're a fan of the original story, don't look for it here. And, if you're a fan of Jackie Chan, well, you'll find him here, but definitely not in top form. It may have taken Phileas Fogg 80 days to complete his journey, but I'd be willing to bet that Disney's Around the World in 80 Days makes its way to home video shelves even faster!
Directed By: Frank Coraci
Written By: Jules Verne (novel Le Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours) /
David Titcher & David Benullo & David Goldstein (screenplay)
Starring: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Robert Fyfe,
Jim Broadbent, Ian McNeice, David Ryall, Roger Hammond, Adam Godley,
MPAA: Rated PG for action violence, some crude humor and mild language.