This millennium edition of Around the World in 80 Days exists only to give Jackie Chan a hundred different places to kick the shit out of people. Frustrated that England’s Minister of Science, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), won’t take him seriously, eccentric London inventor Phineas Fogg (Steve Coogan) guns for the man’s job by traveling around the world with a thief-in-hiding (Chan, playing the race card previously dealt to Mexican Stepin Fetchit Cantinflas in the Oscar-winning 1956 version) and a wannabe impressionist painter, Monique (Cécile de France). One hour shorter and about 20 times more expensive to produce than Michael Anderson’s version, Frank Coraci’s take on the Jules Verne classic feels as if it were made on a conveyor belt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the film lacks pizzazz and has zilch to say about an early 19th-century culture’s struggle for modernity. Admittedly, some of the Luhrmanesque CGI interludes between Fogg’s geographic pit stops are kind of fun and breathless, but you’d be hard pressed to find similar such delirium working its way through the actual living-breathing elements of the film. Either Chan is the stupidest man on Earth or his want of a paycheck has completely blinded him to the way he continues to allow Hollywood to represent him on screen. Once again, a complicit Chan gets to play second fiddle to the white man, reduced to a “Chinaman” stereotype (a ludicrous subplot involving a stolen Buddha is meant to explain the Other’s presence in London). In the film’s funniest scene, Chan’s character subverts a game of telephone to his advantage, but considering the smile on his face and cloying twinkle in his eye, you’d think he did it for a Scooby snack and not the dignity of his people. Since fans of the action star probably couldn’t care less about Chan’s racial subjugation on screen or what one “uppity” critic has to say about it, the good news here is that Around the World in 80 Days should satisfy anyone looking for superfluous, anachronistic fight sequences (indeed, I thought I was watching Shanghai Knights in spots—and that was way before Owen Wilson pays a visit). Unlike Anderson’s film, this claptrap’s cameo appearances are by and large embarrassing and exist only to trigger people’s memories (“Look, Ma, it’s the lady from Misery!”), but to the filmmaker’s credit, they do have a darling time evoking how inventions like the Salisbury steak got their names. If you can get past the horror of a brown-faced Arnold Schwarzenegger playing a Turkish prince, it’s nice to know that someone had the brains to poke fun at the governor of California by suggesting that he was the model for Rodin’s Thinker.
- Frank Coraci
- David Benullo, David Andrew Goldstein, Michael D. Weiss
- Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile de France, Kathy Bates, Jim Broadbent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Cleese, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Johnny Knoxville, Ewen Bremmer, Ian McNeice, Mary Addy, Richard Branson, Rob Schneider
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