Around the World in 80 Days
Picture *** 1/2
Sound ** 1/2
In this odd remake of 1956's 3-hour, cameo-filled (but tedious) filming of Jules Verne's classic novel, stars Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan battle valiantly against a choppy script, a story that comes across as a series of vaguely related skits, and some of the lamest attempts at humor you're likely to find in a big-budget feature film. Director Frank Coraci's previous credits include two Adam Sandler films—which will be either impressive or off-putting, depending on your feelings about Adam Sandler films. I did enjoy The Wedding Singer.
Still, the movie does have some redeeming qualities. Jackie Chan being Jackie Chan, you expect several spectacular acrobatic martial-art battles from the Gene Kelly of the martial arts set, and you definitely get them here. I'm not a big fan of this sort of thing, but they're something to see. They also provide the only real laughs in the film. (For verbal humor, Jim Broadbent as Lord Kelvin—the temperature fellow, I imagine—has the best line, near the end. I won't give it away here.)
It's also a good family film. There are a few mild innuendoes, but nothing that most people will find objectionable. Those fights are more cartoon-like than violent. And I strongly suspect the kids will enjoy the slapstick humor more than adults will.
There's also the colorful, first-rate video transfer. A few soft scenes keep it from a perfect score, but the DVD producers wisely resisted the temptation to add edge enhancement. Artifacts and noise were also non-issues. The audio is equally fine. Only rarely was there a powerful jolt in the bass or aggressive surround activity, but everything was clean and open-sounding, with a nicely recorded (though not particularly interesting) score and always-intelligible dialogue. The extras include an alternate beginning (it's nothing particularly special), deleted scenes, a cast and filmmaker commentary, and a behind-the-scenes featurette. There are no trailers.–TJN