Movie Reviews
10:26 am
Wed June 16, 2004

Around the World in 80 Days

The 2 hours of this remake feel like 80 days in real time.

If I were a filmmaker, the only thing I would remake would be my wardrobe because the odds are not in my favor to improve any original film hit. Ask Gus Van Sant about remaking Hitchcock's "Psycho" or, more recently, Frank Oz about "The Stepford Wives." Neither director would welcome your inquiry.

The original "Around the World in 80 Days" had Michael Todd, famous producer and husband to Elizabeth Taylor; David Niven as the sophisticated but aloof inventor, Phileas Fogg; and Mexican cutie, Cantinflas, as servant Passepartout. The remake director, Frank Coraci, has uneven comedies behind him ("The Waterboy" and "The Wedding Singer"); his Fogg is the unremarkable Steve Coogan (much television); Jackie Chan as Passepartout, better known than anyone else, is probably Disney head Michael Eisner's raison d'etre for funding this disappointment, as he did the recent failure, "Alamo."

Unfortunately Chan has only a few creatively choreographed martial arts scenes; the rest of the film is mostly slapstick. The remake also does not have a memorable melody for its score, as the original famously did (Imagine a remake of "Dr. Zhivago" without "Lara's Theme"?).

Besides Chan's considerable calisthenics, Cecile De France has noticeable charm as the gap-toothed Monique La Roche, love interest of the foggy Fogg. Fogg's backyard, by the way, looks like Willy Wonka's playpen, and may keep the younger audience interested. Karen Mok as Passepartout's nemesis, General Fang, has Freddy Krueger's nails and Yu Shu Lien's dangerous beauty (Michelle Yeoh in "Crouching Tiger"). Jim Broadbent as the film's heavy shows he is one of film's most versatile performers. Not one of these actors can bring home the bacon for this misadventure.

Each time a shot, usually aerial, morphs into animation, I remember Baz Lurhmann's romantic "Moulin Rouge," which often floated through Paris's windows and streets with much more wit and enthusiasm. The 2 hours of this weakly-scripted "Around the World" remake feel like 80 days in real time; I couldn't wait to get home. Lord Byron's Childe Harold said, "This made the ceaseless toil of travel sweet." He was not referring to this film.