Around the World in 80 Days review by Mike Long

It seems that nearly every DVD released these days has a featurette explaining how the movie was made. But, we're rarely told why the movie was made. Obviously money is the driving factor behind most film productions, but it would be interesting to know more about why the filmmakers embark on certain projects. For example, why did Disney feel that a new version of Jules Verne's "Around the World in 80 Days" was needed, when the 1956 film version won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture? Updating a period piece seems like an odd idea, and Around the World in 80 Days, which has recently come to DVD, is a truly uneven film.

As Around the World in 80 Days opens, two significant events happen. First, we see a Chinese man named Passepartout (Jackie Chan) fleeing from the Bank of England, which has just been robbed. Secondly, we meet Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), an inventor who seems obsessed with creating new and faster modes of transportation. As Fogg's current "Valet" (Test Subject) quits, Passepartout lands in Fogg's garden and volunteers for the job, as it's a convenient way to get away from the police who are pursuing him. When Fogg ventures to the Royal Academy of Science to report his latest findings, he's belittled by the cocky Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent). After a heated debate, Kelvin jokingly states that Fogg should attempt to traverse the globe in 80 days -- and Fogg accepts this challenge. Soon, he and Passepartout set off for Paris, where they will begin their journey. There, they meet Monique La Roche (Cecile De France), a struggling artist who decides to tag along on their trip. As Fogg attempts to meet his deadline, the secret of Passepartout's involvement in the robbery is revealed, as are romantic feelings between Fogg and Monique. However, Kelvin has dispatched agents to stop Fogg, making their travels even more challenging.

Around the World in 80 Days is a truly bizarre movie disguised as a family film and once again, I have to wonder, "What were they thinking?" Let's breakdown the elements of the movie: Here we have an 19th century novel being remade into a motion picture in 2004 from the director of The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer, featuring Jackie Chan and inordinate amount of martial arts action. As noted above, the movie is uneven, but that words still doesn't describe how all-over-the-map Around the World in 80 Days is. I've not read the novel or seen the 1956 film, but according to the special features on this DVD, many elements from the original story has been changed for this film. Based on these observations, the makers of the movie clearly ignored the "Less is more" axiom and threw many new elements into the story.

As the movie doesn't all, it's easy to separate the good from the bad. On the positive side, the movie has a great look. The bulk of the special effects are nicely done and the locations look fantastic. Coogan is very engaging as the slightly neurotic and repressed Fogg, who is chasing his dream while attempting to remain calm at all times. Cecile De France is a good match for Coogan, as her bright smile lights up the screen. Also, the film is loaded with great cameos, some of which are quite unexpected. These elements can't help the fact that we are watching three movies at once. The main story works to a point, but it's quite predictable and feels very dated. Then, we have the Jackie Chan movie embedded within Around the World in 80 Days, in which there's an unnecessary martial arts fight scene every few minutes...and they seem to drag on forever. And finally we have the off-color humor which was clearly mailed-in from the Adam Sandler aspect of the group. We get a cameo from one of Sandler's regulars and a scene with a ship captain who has a particularly gross injury. These parts feel really out of place and made me cringe considering that this was to be a "family film". The worst part about Around the World in 80 Days is how truly flat it is. There's never any sense of suspense or adventure. The movie contains some nice elements, but things never come together and most of the endeavor feels like a waste of time.

Around the World in 80 Days flies onto DVD courtesy of Disney DVD. The film comes to DVD in two separate releases, one widescreen and the other full-frame. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks very good, although it is a tad dark at times. The picture is quite clear and shows no indication of grain. Close examination of the characters reveals no sign of edge-enhancement. There is some slight artifacting at times, but it's light and the colors are very good. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio is quite active throughout the film, as we get surround sound effects from crowd noises, train whistles, etc. and subwoofer action from the many fight scenes.

The Around the World in 80 Days DVD offers a few special features. We start with an audio commentary from director Frank Coraci and star Steve Coogan. This is an interesting commentary, as the pair discuss the production of the film, but it's also surprisingly dry at times. Coraci takes credit for most every element in the film (is that wise?) and they both applaud Jackie Chan's performance. This commentary is only available on the extended cut of the film which contains a few seconds of additional footage at the film's opening...which adds nothing to the story. "Discovering Around the World in 80 Days" is a 19-minute making-of featurette which offers behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, and a look at the special effects. It also contains numerous comments from the cast and crew, but unlike most featurettes, none of the speakers are identified, so outside of the cast and Coraci, I didn't know who anyone else was. "Around the World of Jackie Chan" (7 minutes) gives us an overview of how the fight scenes were done. The DVD contains 8 deleted scenes, which encompass around 7 minutes of footage, included a brief introduction by Coraci. The extras are rounded out by a music video by Dave Stewart for the song "Everybody All Over the World (Join the Celebration)".

4 out of 10 Jackasses

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