Comedian Coogan stars as Phileas Fogg, the 19th-century inventor who is challenged by nefarious Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent) to circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. If he manages it, he will become the new head of the Royal Academy of Science. If he fails, he must promise never to invent anything again. Phileas is accompanied by Passepartout (Chan), who is using the trip for his own ends, while Kelvin has put a bumbling policeman (Ewen Bremner in a thankless role) on Phileas’s trail, with instructions to stop him at all costs. And there are Chinese assassins after them, too.
Based on Jules Verne’s classic novel, this remake sadly lacks both excitement and humour as Phileas trots round the globe with surprising ease (obstacles like the Pacific Ocean and the Himalayas are glossed over as our hero flits across continents). While the original 1956 film (starring the far more charismatic David Niven) featured exotic locations cinema audiences had never visited, seeing Coogan and Chan romp around fake sets of Paris, London, San Francisco and China is about as exciting as watching an old repeat of Wish You Were Here? And while fifties cinemagoers were treated to cameos from John Gielgud, Frank Sinatra and Buster Keaton, all we get in this 21st-century version is a teeth-grindingly awful turn from Arnold Schwarzenegger as Prince Hapi, and an assortment of ‘so-what’ contributions from Richard Branson, Macy Gray, Luke and Owen Wilson (in one of the few moments that’s amusing) and Kathy Bates.
Apparently, studio bigwigs wanted Hugh Grant or Johnny Depp for the lead, both of whom have the acting personality and skill to improve this limp piece of film-making. Instead, Coogan – devoid of comic material and forced to play it like the romantic lead he clearly isn’t – fades into the scenery, leaving Chan to kick some butts and inject into an otherwise lifeless movie a few rare moments of energy that may entertain younger kids.
Is Around The World In 80 Days 2004 suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
There are some fighting scenes, but neither of the leads seem in any real peril at any time.