Around the World in 80 Days (2004) DVD Review

Jackie Chan may not be the greatest martial artist to most people and that's fine. What Chan does is entertain. His style is unlike anyone else's and no one can do what he can (at least not with the same flair). That's why it's a real shame that on the downside of his career he chooses movies like this.

Barring little resemblance to the Jules Verne novel (or the 1956 film version), the film is a costly mess that does pick up a little bit in the second hour, but it ends up seeming more intent to show off cameos than provide anything entertaining. Arnold Schwarzenegger nearly kills the film with his few moments of screen time (managing to be both unfunny and hard to look at). Owen Wilson and his brother Luke have a decent spin on the Wright Brothers, John Cleese is really wasted, and Rob Schneider provides a mild laugh as a street bum. As a family film though, how many kids are going to actually catch all of these?

What starts that second hour upswing mentioned above is, not surprisingly, a Jackie Chan brawl. A great homage to Chan's unforgettable bench fight in "Drunken Master," it's this single moment that gives the film a burst of energy regardless of whether or not you're a fan of martial arts. It's unfortunate that energy doesn't stay with it.

Right afterwards, the movie falls right back in the line it made earlier, relying on cheap jokes related to the ignorance of the people in the era. Beyond Chan, the only spark comes from the spunky French actress Cecile De France. The films other lead, Steve Coogan, is basically lifeless as Phileas Fogg. Granted, it's a little more entertaining than the character from the original novel (and the 1956 version), but that's only because everyone around him makes it that way.

Some nice photography adds a little bit to the overall proceedings too, just not enough to make this a recommendation. Disney must have loved all this on-location footage too as it sent the budget skyrocketing above $100 million. This is a unique retelling of a classic tale just barely saved by a 51-year old stunt man. A great 51-year old stunt man granted, but he's not enough to make this worthwhile for the intended audience. (** out of *****)

The DVD does a solid job of presenting the film with separate widescreen (2.35:1) and pan & scan versions available. Compression is under control and the color is outstanding in parts. Don't let the opening moments in London fool you. This movie becomes a feast for the eyes later. Grain is at a bare minimum. Edge enhancement is suspect in a few spots, fine detail can be murky, and flickering are all small problems during the running time. (****)

There's not much to the audio package, even during the bigger fight scenes. The one highlight comes during the fight in Istanbul as an enemy swings a chain throughout the sound field. The film otherwise sounds flat with some very sparse separation and almost no work for the rear speakers. It has a few opportunities to really work so it's really shame this isn't a better package. (***)

There are two versions of the film contained on the disc; the theatrical cut and a version with an alternate opening. All this new version has is a CG animated dream sequence to start the film. If you want to listen to commentary from director Frank Coraci and actor Steve Coogan, this is the version you'll have to watch.

"Discovering 'Around the World in 80 Days'" is a nice little making-of piece. Yes, it has those moments where the actors and crew are praised, but there's a lot of behind the scenes footage and Jackie Chan outtakes. It's worth 19-minutes of your time. "Around the World with Jackie Chan" looks at the stunt work of the film and Chan discusses some of the mishaps. It's unfortunately short at a little over six minutes.

There are seven deleted scenes, all with commentary from the director. There's an also an introduction from him to this section. A short scene with Rob Schneider should have stayed, especially considering the film is already over two hours. This two-minute clip wouldn't have killed anybody. Things finish with a music video and some now outdated trailers. (***)

This probably wouldn't be a bad movie for kids in the car on a long road trip. It's brighter and faster than the original. It's unfortunate they won't grasp everything, but if it gets them interested in the book somehow, then maybe it's worth it.

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