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Around the World in 80 Days
"I know kung fu."     "We'll never clean that up."

(left) Jackie Chan takes flight, and (right) Cecile De France and Steve Coogan in Around the World in 80 Days.
Year: 2004
Director: Frank Coraci  
Producer: Bill Badalato, Hal Lieberman, Jackie Chan, Willie Chan, Solon So
Writer: A screenwriting contingent, very loosely based on the novel by Jules Verne
Action: Jackie Chan, Li Chung-Chi  
Cast: Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent, Karen Mok Man-Wai, Ian McNeice, David Ryall, Roger Hammond, Ewen Bremner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Bramson, Macy Gray, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, John Cleese, Will Forte, Daniel Wu, Maggie Q, Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Rob Schneider, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Marc Addy, Kathy Bates, Tuan Wai-Lun, Marsha Yuan Ji-Wai
The Skinny: Jackie Chan's latest US flick is efficient family entertainment, but it's probably tired stuff for those weaned on Police Story, Drunken Master II, and probably even Who Am I?. For an aging Chan, Around the World in 80 Days is competently made stuff, and kids will certainly dig it. For adults, it could be another story. Jules Verne purists, run away!
Review
by Kozo:

     Jackie Chan's US career probably won't die as a result of Around the World in 80 Days, but they'll certainly trim back on his budgets before the film finishes its theatrical run. A $110 million flop in the making (Only $6.8 million dollars on its opening weekend; by comparison, Ben Stiller's Dodgeball pulled in $30 million), Around the World in 80 Days probably doesn't deserve all of its critical drubbing, as it's a reasonably entertaining family picture which proves both brainless and inoffensive. On the other hand, it totally lays waste to its inspiration, Jules Verne's original novel, and is likely to be unimpressive to the hardcore Chan fans who've been singing his praises since the eighties. But hey, the guy's getting old.
     Chan plays Passepartout, who's supposed to be the valet of visionary inventory Phileas Fogg (British comedian Steve Coogan). However, in this Chan-centric reimagining, Passepartout is in actuality Lau Xing, a Chinese patriot who robs a Jade Buddha from the Bank of England to help save his village. He literally falls into Fogg's backyard and volunteers to be his valet/test subject to escape the British authorities. He then facilitates Fogg's legendary jaunt around the world by suggesting (via the power of gossip) that the ridiculously evil Lord Kelvin (an overacting Jim Broadbent) bet Fogg that he cannot circumnavigate the globe in 80 days. Fogg takes the bet, with the prize being Kelvin's seat as head of their gentleman's club. If Fogg loses, he must give up inventing FOREVER.
     Obviously, Fogg has a lot invested in all of this, as does Passepartout. He hopes to deliver the Jade Buddha back to his village along the way. However, he's chased by the evil Scorpion Gang, led by General Fang (Karen Mok, credited here as Karen Joy Morris), who's in cahoots with Lord Kelvin to take over a slew of land in China. What this means is legions of Chinese people chasing Passepartout all over the world, including Maggie Q as a hot assassin, and a group of French impersonators led by Ken Lo. There's also cute French artist Monique (Cecile De France) who comes on board as the required love interest for Fogg, plus many, many star cameos, including Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Turkish Prince, Owen and Luke Wilson as The Wright Brothers, Kathy Bates as the Queen of England, Sammo Hung as Wong Fei-Hong, and Daniel Wu as a Scorpion Gang assassin who goes toe to toe with Chan. That's right, this film has Daniel Wu! Cue girls swooning. Meanwhile, America wonders who the overacting pseudo-Chinese hunk is.
     As an actual film, Around the World in 80 Days has as much credibility as Michael Jackson, babysitter. The film is alternately crass and chaotic, and in totality, as lightweight as any big-budget soulless Hollywood blockbuster. At the same time, the film is primo stuff for kids, and features loads of slapstick humor, fun locations, and generally offense-free (if not too random) comedy which should send tykes into screaming hysterics. Chan's action sequences are both fun and familiar (a lot of the stuff has been seen before in other Chan films), and co-star Coogan manages a fine wit despite the multitude of lousy lines he's given. Cecile De France is charmingly cute, and Karen Mok does a decent job with the Dragon Lady role. Daniel Wu overacts with abandon, as does the vast majority of the cast. Director Frank Coraci moves things along such that the two hour running time doesn't seem like two hours, and utilizes cheesy CG-animated transitions which are jarringly fake, but probably fun for the kiddies. Again, it's all about the kiddies.
     Which is probably where the biggest problem is. As a kiddie spectacular, Around the World in 80 Days succeeds handily, and even shows where the aging Chan will likely spend his later days: as an overpaid entertainer for the Nickelodeon set. However, for adults the film will likely only succeed if they've steeled themselves for a big-budget kids film with little-to-no true adult appeal, unlike those Pixar CG-animated films, or even Babe. For fans of HK Cinema, the film actually has larger appeal in the form of Chan, Mok, Wu and the generous amount of time spent kung-fu fighting. The detour to China manages references to Wong Fei-Hung, the Ten Tigers of Kwantung, and more fighting styles than any American film has likely seen. The fighting itself isn't all that great, and seems more obligatory than inspired. At the same time, it's THERE. Isn't that enough for some people?
     The big question that we, as Jackie Chan fans, should be concerned with is: where is Chan headed after all of this? Well, for one thing, it's doubtful that any of his films will cost $110 million dollars anymore, as Around the World in 80 Days appears headed for the flop-heap. It'll probably do well on video, and will reaffirm Chan's status as a likable babysitter for your kids. And given Chan's age, it's not an entirely unwelcome future for him. However, those who swear by the action adrenaline of Police Story and Drunken Master II will probably shake their heads sadly and resign Chan to the graveyard of aging action stars who simply can't cut it anymore. They might also judge Chan as a "sellout" who turned his back on Hong Kong and now makes only Hollywood-sanctioned tripe. That's probably a tad unfair. Around the World in 80 Days, while nothing more than big-budget goofy crap, can be fairly entertaining stuff for the whole family. Yeah, it has no edge, no toughness, and is miles worse than anything Chan did in Hong Kong during the eighties, but hey, your kids will like it. That's gotta be worth something. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Buena Vista Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Various other extras
images courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
   
 
 
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