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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Around the World In 80 Days (2004)



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Ordinarily, the liberties taken with Jules Verne's classic novel in this film version would bother me to no end. Verne's story is a great one and wonderfully cinematic, but it's been filmed relatively faithfully twice: once, in the 1956 Oscar-winning Best Picture with David Niven, and again in 1989 as a television mini-series with Pierce Brosnan. Both versions are excellent, so why make it again?

In this 2004 version, Phileas Fogg is an inventor (!), and Passepartout is a Chinese thief (!) that Fogg hires as a manservant just as his former one tires of being the test monkey for dangerous new inventions. Once the plot machine has them off on their around-the-world journey, each stop is treated as an opportunity for slapstick comedy, Jackie Chan's signature stunt work, or both.

I enjoyed a lot of the movie, finding some of it funny and some of it creative, but I came away unsatisfied. The problem is that it tries too hard without having the sense of comic balance that makes less more and more less. Comedies works best when the characters don't know they're funny. These characters know it and ham it up in all the wrong places.

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