This movie may take its title from the Jules Verne classic adventure about the man who circled the globe in 80 days to win a bet, but it is really just a Jackie Chan movie, and a below-average one at that.
Chan, who also produced, plays Lau Xing, valet to inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan). The previous valet quit because he refused to test any more of Fogg’s wild contraptions. Xing, on the run after stealing a valuable jade buddha from the Bank of London, thinks the police will not find him if he is working for Fogg, so he pretends to be French and gives his name as “Passepartout.” Fogg’s bet with the peppery Lord Kelvin (James Broadbent) that he cannot circle the globe in 80 days provides Xing with the perfect cover for getting to China as quickly as possible to return the buddha to his small town.
There are a lot of stops in exotic locations and a lot of adventures involving obstacles to reaching the next stage of the journey and a few surprising cameo appearances, including the Governor of California as a sybaritic king.
Overplotted and under-imagined, this movie tries hard to distract the audience with razzle-dazzle, but not even the stunts or fight scenes make much of an impression and the preposterous final mode of transportation comes across as so lazy a concept it is almost insulting.
Coogan has an endearing sincerity and spirit and Cécile De France has a few nice moments as as Monique, a pretty French artist who comes along for the ride. But Chan seems tired, even distracted, impatient to get it all over with. I was, too.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of slapstick-, cartoon-, and action-style violence, including many crotch injuries, but no one is seriously hurt. Characters use mild bad language (“bloody hell”). There is some crude and vulgar humor, including bathroom jokes, drunkenness played for comedy, a weird cross-dressing joke, and a comic situation involving a man with many wives. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of women and minorities who fight stereotypes and prejudice; however, some people may find some of the portrayals in the movie itself offensively stereotypical.
Families who see this movie should talk about some of their own travel adventures.
Families who enjoy this movie should see the Oscar-winning 1956 Around the World in 80 Days and a terrific family movie, The Great Race. They might want to find out about the real-life Lord Kelvin, Scottish mathematician and physicist, who really did say that all important discoveries had been made. They might also like to look at paintings by some of the artists portrayed in the movie, including Van Gogh and Rodin. They might like to read about the pioneering reporter Nellie Bly, who beat Fogg’s record in 1889, circling the globe in 72 days just 16 years after Verne’s book was published. How many days would it take to circle the globe today?