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Around The World In 80 Days (2004)
Director: Frank Coraci

review by Alasdair Stuart

This update of Verne's classic tale is in many ways more an update of the 1956 film version of the same. It has the same comedic feel, the same cast laden down with cameo appearances and the same breezy, cheerily anarchic approach to history. Faithful it most certainly isn't, fun it most certainly is.

Steve Coogan's Phileas Fogg is an inventor, a man whose genius is matched only by his total lack of self-discipline and his ability to terrify butlers into resigning. When Jackie Chan's Lau Xing recovers an idol from the British Museum that was taken from his family, he finds himself posing as Passepartout, Fogg's butler. Before long, Fogg has made the famous wager and the pair set off around the world, hotly pursued by Ewan Bremner's incompetent policeman.

This version, effectively a Chan vehicle, combines the normal plot with a fairly run-of-the-mill kung fu story. What lifts the film above mediocre is the energy of the performances and the sheer volume of actors, locations and action sequences on display. There's a sense that all involved have worked as hard as they possibly could to produce a film which is fun if nothing else.
Around the World in 80 Days
They've succeeded and done so in spades. Coogan's Fogg in particular is great, a man with absolutely no concept of the real world and a charmingly callous attitude towards anyone who isn't him. He's a fish completely out of water and this gives the film many of its best comedic moments, most notably during the sequence set at Lau Xing's village. Coogan even manages to give the character dramatic weight, and the scenes where Fogg believes he's lost the bet are genuinely affecting.

Chan, the other half of the double act does exactly what he always does. He's one of the most amiable actors of his generation and his combination of likeable buffoon and intimidating warrior once again works very well here. Inevitably, the fight and physical comedy sequences impress most, especially a chase that begins in an art studio and finishes with him dangling beneath the Montgolfier brothers' balloon. Chan is a master of this sort of work and Around The World In 80 Days contains some of his best work in years.

The supporting cast are equally impressive with Cécile De France especially good as Monique La Roche, the female lead. She's smart, funny and the perfect foil to Coogan's splendidly stuffy Fogg. Similarly, the cameos are great fun with Luke and Owen Wilson stealing the show as Orville and Wilbur Wright.

As much a grab-bag of the best parts of European history as it is a new adaptation of the novel, this is a hugely energetic, remarkably silly film. It's funny, epic and genuine family entertainment.
Around the World in 80 Days

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