Thursday, May 5, 2016

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Year 8, Day 126 - 5/5/16 - Movie #2,326

BEFORE: Well, it's clear that I was working on a Steve Coogan chain, and I was going to get there through "Night at the Museum", but that wasn't going to help me land on my Mother's Day film, so I followed the Robin Williams thread and added "Man of the Year" and three Amy Poehler films, and fortunately I found my way back to Steve Coogan, he'll be here for four more films in a row.

Thematically, this worked out rather well, because Flint Lockwood in last night's film was an inventor, and Phileas Fogg in this story (this version of it, anyway) is also an inventor.  That was unplanned, but I'll certainly still take credit for it. 

And it's Cinco de Mayo, I don't know if this trip around the world will pass through Mexico, but at least there's an outside chance. Will Forte, who voiced the main villain in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2", carries over and has a cameo as a British bobby.  

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1956) (Movie #1,300)

THE PLOT:  A bet pits a British inventor, a Chinese thief, and a French artist on a worldwide adventure that they can circle the globe in 80 days.

AFTER: The 1956 version of this story was the last film that I watched in 2012, and I used it as a sort of "Victory Lap" for a 63-movie virtual journey around the world, based on where each film primarily took place.  The trip started in San Francisco with "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and also ended in the same city, with "The Lady From Shanghai".  And to make things extra difficult and fun, the actor linking was maintained whenever possible, so really it was a giant mental organizational challenge, with an estimated distance (not actually) traveled of 48,100 miles.  The trail went across the USA to New York, then over the ocean to London, across Europe and down to Africa, across Asia and then Australia, over the South seas to South America, and then up through Central America and Mexico.  And if I hadn't stayed on the couch that whole time, I would have been even more exhausted. 

And it took me two nights to watch that version of "Around the World in Eighty Days", because it's a long film, with a convenient intermission.  As far as I can tell, that version stayed pretty faithful to Jules Verne's story, but this 2004 version?  Not so much.  A Chinese actor plays the role of Passepartout (originally made famous by French comic actor Cantinflas), plus they added a whole sub-plot about a stolen Jade statue, and a cadre of martial-arts villains trying to get it back.  

There are numerous other changes, like the female love interest being introduced while traveling through Paris, rather than India, and the addition of a lot of slapstick (the lowest form of comedy), not just the karate-based stunts, but also a lot of paint being splashed around, people falling out of trains and such.  

In its own way, this is a reboot of the Jules Verne story, but it's akin to that "Fantastic Four" reboot, in that someone set out to update the story by saying "Let's change this here" and "This would be more relevant if we had a minority in a major role" and then at the end of the process, the final result bears very little resemblance to the original story.  When you "update" just about everything, using the original story only as a framework for a bunch of newish ideas, well, you might as well just create a whole new storyline while you're at it, because at that point you're just one or two steps away.  And it's another example of how making hundreds of small changes, each of which seems to make some sense at the time, can result in a giant pile of nonsense when taken in together.  

But what they did manage to keep was the cameos of famous actors playing historical figures (though not nearly as many as in the 1956 film), and the fake-out ending from Verne's book, where the travelers think they have lost the bet, but forget to calculate that they gained a day by traveling east and crossing the International Date Line.  Essentially, the travelers set their watches forward one hour every time they crossed into a new time zone.  And after doing this 24 times, their calculations were ahead one day, so when they arrive too late on what they think is the 80th day, it's really only the 79th day.  But is this really the way that traveling works?  This always confuses me.  

They did travel west to east, but does this mean that if they had traveled east to west, they would have lost a day?  That doesn't make sense, because it shouldn't matter which way you travel around, logically the trip should take the same amount of time, when viewed from an arbitrary standpoint.  And if you follow this theory to its illogical conclusion, it means that if I can travel east to west and get through each time zone in under an hour, then I'll be traveling back in time, right?  That seems like it shouldn't be possible.  

Everything feels forced - the set-up with the bet feels forced, the love story feels forced, the humor feels incredibly forced, so in the end, nothing feels very genuine or sincere.  I mean, I guess they were trying to appeal to kids here, which doesn't really justify anything, but often people make children's movies so big and broad, it comes off as talking down to them.  Assuming that you have to make every joke very blatant so kids will understand them seems a lot like talking down to them, if you ask me. 

Also starring Steve Coogan (last seen in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb"), Jackie Chan (last heard in "Kung Fu Panda 2"), Cecile De France (last seen in "Hereafter"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason"), Ian McNeice (ditto), Ewen Bremner (last seen in "Exodus: Gods and Kings"), Karen Mok, Perry Andelin Blake, with cameos from Arnold Schwarzenegger (last seen in "Terminator Genisys"), Maggie Q (last seen in "New York, I Love You"), Richard Branson, Macy Gray, Rob Schneider (last heard in "Eight Crazy Nights"), Sammo Hung, Luke Wilson (last seen in "The Family Stone"), Owen Wilson (also last seen in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb"), John Cleese (last seen in "The Big Picture"), Mark Addy, Kathy Bates (last seen in "Tammy"). 

RATING: 3 out of 10 Van Gogh paintings

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