out of Five
Box Office-watchers may already be aware that Around the World In 80 Days is the summer's biggest flop so far in the States. This is more than a little unfair and actually slightly baffling. Perhaps it was down to poor marketing, or the fact that Steve Coogan is still a relative unknown over there. Whatever the reasons, it will hopefully do better in the UK, as it's an enjoyable, old-fashioned adventure film that will appeal to both adults and kids.
Steve Coogan throws off the shackles of Alan Partridge and plays Phileas Fogg, an eccentric London inventor in Victorian England. Fogg has discovered the secrets to light, electricity and even roller-blades, but he is regarded as a crack-pot by his peers. After the latest round of teasing by the members of the Royal Academy of Science, Fogg makes an outlandish bet with the head of the Academy, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), that he can circumnavigate the globe in just 80 days.
Meanwhile, Jackie Chan plays... well... himself, sort of. We first meet him eluding police after he has stolen a priceless Jade statue from the Bank of England. It transpires that Lord Kelvin was responsible for the statue's theft from Chan's home village and when Chan discovers that Fogg is planning a trip round the world, he signs on as his valet (giving his name as Passpartout), intending to return the statue to his village. The list of sidekicks doesn't end there, however - once in Paris they pick up aspiring artist Monique (Cecile De France) who tags along for no other reason than 'to see the world' (and to inject the film with a welcome bit of love interest).
As you'd expect from a Jackie Chan film, the action sequences are both inventive and well-staged. There's a lot of knockabout humour (although the bits with Ewan Bremner's policeman are a little over-the-top) and also some superb visual gags, such as the fight in the art gallery that 'creates' a painting. The film also has an unusual look to it - aside from the impressively designed inventions, the scene transitions are very colourful and have a dream-like quality to them, although this works better on the impressionistic painter's-eye view of Paris than elsewhere in the film.
Coogan is perfectly cast as Fogg and the witty script supplies him with several good one-liners. Chan is as reliable as always and De France makes an attractive debut. In a nod to the 1956 film with David Niven, the rest of the cast is comprised of all-star cameos, such as Owen and Luke Wilson (as the Wright Brothers), Kathy Bates, John Cleese (so short you wonder why they bothered), Sammo Hung, Rob Schneider (!) and, in a surprisingly amusing turn as a camp Turkish prince, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In short, Around The World In 80 Days is not without its flaws - the ending, in particular, seems rushed - but is definitely worth seeing and deserves a better fate than it received in the States.