First things first: this Around The World In 80 Days has only a passing acquaintance with the Jules Verne novel. It has even less to do with the Oscar-winning 1956 version starring David Niven and, er, Cantiflas. So if you think the story is about a Victorian adventurer who traverses the earth, you're wrong. It's really about a Chinese thief from a remote village whose future depends on the safe return of a priceless statue. It's a Jackie Chan picture, pure and simple. Glad we cleared that one up.
True, intrepid explorer Phileas Fogg is present in the bumbling, floppy-fringed form of Steve Coogan. And it's his rash, globe-trotting wager with mutton-chopped rival Jim Broadbent that sets the story in motion. But then one of literature's best-loved characters is required to play second fiddle to his valet, all in the service of a plot brazenly pinched from Shanghai Knights.
Given its cavalier treatment of the source, it would be tempting to give Frank Coraci's movie the same kicking that Chan gives virtually everyone who crosses his path. Tempting, but unfair. Yes, the action resembles a greatest-hits compilation culled from superior Jackie efforts. And yes, the `star' cameos (Arnie's randy prince, John Cleese's London bobby and - noooo! - Richard Branson's hot-air balloonist) are in clear violation of the Trade Descriptions Act. But the fact remains that 80 Days supplies a perfectly adequate helping of knockabout entertainment, served with a generous sprinkling of gusto and old-style charm.
Racing from France and India to the Far East and the Wild West, Coraci's film never stays still long enough for you to get tired of it. And though the story is circumscribed by geography, there are some pleasant surprises en route: a dust-up in a Parisian art studio that inadvertently creates an Old Master, two Wilsons for the price of one (Owen and Luke pop up) and a well-Hung guest appearance that's sure to appeal to Chan devotees.
Some groan-inducing cameos aside, this is hardly the stinker we'd feared. It's certainly a damn sight better than Chan's other recent efforts.
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