After stealing a valuable jade Buddha from the Bank Of England, Chinese thief Lau Xing (Chan) disguises himself as French valet Passepartout and teams up with Phileas Fogg (Coogan), an eccentric inventor who has made a wager that he can circumnavigate the globe within 80 days.
Given its status as a classic novel whose previous adaptation won the Best Picture Oscar in 1956, remaking Around The World In Eighty Days was always going to be a tricky task. That, however, is a poor excuse for what Wedding Singer director Frank Coraci has come up with: a leaden version of Jules Verne's classic, which tries to turn up the comedy factor yet offers only occasional flashes of inspiration. More than anything, it feels like yet another excuse for a frantic Jackie Chan kung fu-a-thon, only this time dressed up in 19th century costumes and set against various exotically painted backdrops.
Of course, no Chan movie can get away without giving the man himself a chance to show off his stunt work, and here he gets to take on legions of Chinese warriors and other enemies using all manner of improvised weaponry. But his antics feel oddly out of place in what is, after all, supposed to be a literary adaptation, and ultimately the action overshadows the central story rather than enhancing it. The poor script doesn't help either, littered with double entendres and borderline toilet gags that would be more at home in a high school comedy.
On the plus side, it looks pretty, with Coraci making the most of the foreign locations and period detail. Coogan is engaging enough as the eccentric Fogg (although his cut-glass English accent soon gives way to a long string of Victorian-era Alan Partridge-isms), and De France does her best with the love interest role. But bad guy Broadbent seems to spend much of his screen time shouting rather than being truly villainous, while Bremner reaches a career nadir as the Cocker-nee cop who forms the basis of a running gag that quickly wears thin.
What's really missing from this, ultimately, is the magic that any adaptation of this story so desperately needs, while the conveyor belt of cameo appearances (Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Turkish prince, Kathy Bates as Queen Victoria etc. etc.) gives it the feel of one of those mid-'70s movies where the main priority was to shoehorn in as many famous faces as possible, rather than make a decent movie. It livens up a bit in the last reel when Fogg's inventive brain pulls out all the stops to try to win the bet, but by that point you'll be too jaded to care.
Very young viewers might enjoy the knockabout comedy, but by playing the entire concept for laughs, the end result loses the story's sense of adventure and ends up being more slapdash than slapstick. Jules Verne must be turning in his grave.
Reviewed by Caroline Westbrook
|Around the World in 80 Days|