Monday, June 28, 2004

Around The World In 80 Days

* * (out of four)
Seen 28 June 2004 at Loews Boston Common #11 (first-run)

Two stars is about right; I didn't hate Around The World In 80 Days, but as it ended, I not only couldn't say I was terribly impressed, but I for the life of me couldn't figure out who would be. This movie is a monster created by an indecisive Frankenstein, unable to decide who its audience is and disjointed in its attempts to entertain them.

Just look at the credits for the cameos. You will find folks mainly familiar to Hong Kong film fans, some more familiar to (I presume) the British, and some Americans. The way these cameos are used is annoying, too - Macy Gray, for instance, barely appears (Passepartout literally runs through her room), whereas I felt I should be able to identify the Irish cop on the New York docks. Even the ones who are actually amusing feel jammed in.

Then there's the question of what type of movie this is. It's got the bright colors and fantastical gagetry of a kids' movie - I especially liked the title cards for each location that looked like CGI pop-up books - and certainly some of the performances lean that way (Cécile De France as love interest Monique La Roche being the main example), while Steve Coogan hits a sort of middle ground as an arch Phileas Fogg and Jackie Chan... well, his Englist just isn't good enough for him to project much charisma between fight scenes.

Happily, Jackie does get to break out the kung fu every once in a while, in mostly kid-friendly action pieces. Nothing here will make afficianados forget Drunken Master 2, and the action scene in Turkey gets what looks like a big CGI assist (I'm pretty sure that one shot featured a digital Ewen Bremmer, who plays an inept policeman chasing Fogg), but the fights let Jackie relax and kick some butt. These bits are fun, and the best reason for going to the movie, but they also make the movie somewhat schizoid. Jackie Chan is almost an anchor outside the action segments, while Steve Coogan is pretty useless during them. I love both of these guys to pieces, but as a team, the whole is definitely less than the sum of the parts. At least Chan gets to show his skills, by grabbing the movie for himself when punching and kicking is called for; Coogan just never gets to show his potential. Coogan on a good day is a young John Cleese, but in this movie's 100 minutes, he never once manages what Cleese does with ten seconds.

Another minor complaint: No outtakes. Is Jackie Chan reaching an age where his flubs aren't funny any more, or do the producers just assume that the kids watching this movie won't be interested by watching how he does to work. Or are they just afraid that what the generally talented cast does when screwing up will be better than the actual movie?

What a frustrating movie. It parades a world's worth of talented people across the screen, but never figures out how to get them to work together, and only fitfully gets them to work on their own.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I guess somebody really didn't like that movie...since his head is for sale on eBay.