Jackie Chan and Steve Coogan in Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Around the World with Jackie Chan

For those wanting an exciting adaptation of Jules Verne's story "Around the World in 80 Days" clear off because this isn't it. Nope this is Disney taking the basic storyline and turning it into an amusing adventure for young audiences who will laugh at the characters, marvel at the special effects and enjoy watching lots of Jackie Chan demonstrating his brilliance for comical fighting. I wouldn't even say it is a worthy introduction to Verne's story because it embellishes and changes things so much, come on did Verne write about martial arts, I don't think so. But as a way to keep young children amused and adults marvelling at how much Steve Coogan looks like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen it works.

After stealing back an important Jade Buddha, Lau Xing (Jackie Chan - Rush Hour) pretends to be a French valet called Passepartout so he can hide out with eccentric inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan - Night at the Museum 2). And when the snobs at the Royal Academy of Science challenge Fogg to go around the world in 80 days Passepartout is happy to accompany him as it means he can return the Buddha to its rightful place in his village in China. But their travels are troubled ones as whilst they gain a travelling companion in the attractive Monique La Roche (Cécile De France) they have to deal with numerous attempts at sabotaging there journey.

C├ęcile De France and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

So "Around the World in 80 Days" basically takes Verne's idea of a Phileas Fogg and his valet Passepartout taking a bet and trying to travel around the world in 80 days. But then it changes it completely as we have Passepartout being a Chinese man on the run having stolen an already stolen Jade Buddha to return it home. We also have the Reform club changed to The Royal Academy of Science and a hell of a lot more because basically everything changes. It does mean that for those who hoped for more of Verne's story will end up disappointed.

But by changing it we do get a whacky adventure which is made for young audiences starting right from Fogg being this eccentric inventor who others think is loopy. Throw in Jackie Chan delivering one comically infused action scene after another and we have a movie which in many ways is a series of set pieces. We have the action as they try to get on a hot air balloon in France to scuffles with those sent to stop them from succeeding. All of which is very colourful thanks to a lot of CGI work as action melts into animation.

And to be honest it is all very entertaining but really for only one reason and that is Jackie Chan. Chan maybe playing the role of valet but he is the star of the movie delivering one great stunt scene after another whilst also making it funny with some great facial expressions. In fact you get a sense that maybe "Around the World in 80 Days" was written specifically with Chan in mind because the majority of the movie revolves around his talent rather than anyone else.

It does mean that whilst Steve Coogan maybe playing Phileas Fogg he plays second fiddle to Chan delivering some flamboyant eccentricity whilst looking not too unlike Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. Ironically Coogan almost gets eclipsed by Cécile De France as Monique because not only is she beautiful but delivers some of the funniest scenes such as when she is called the 11th tiger and she meows, okay you have to see it to get the joke. And to be honest many of the cameos end up being more entertaining and these include Schwarzenegger, Luke & Owen Wilson, Rob Schneider, Richard Branson and a brilliant cameo from Kathy Bates as Queen Victoria.

What this all boils down to is that "Around the World in 80 Days" is not so much an adaptation of Verne's story but a reworking to turn it into a fun action/ adventure movie for Jackie Chan to entertain with his comical quickness. It is entertaining if a little long at 120 minutes but as a distraction for young children it will work.