Making the Grades
A well-dressed man falling out of a tree and into your backyard might raise suspicions among most people. Especially if he claims to be your new French valet.
But not for Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan). He's one of those great inventors who lives with his head in a . well, in a fog. Absorbed in his work, he is completely oblivious to anything in the outside world. So having a Passepartout (Jackie Chan) drop in just when he needs him to help run an experiment seems perfectly logical.
Focused on forward thinking ideas, Phileas only wants to have his work recognized by the grizzled old fogies who run the Royal Academy of Science. Those men, on the other hand, would rather publicly lynch him than ever acknowledge his new-fangled creations.
But finally after a heated squabble about the aims of science, Phileas gets a chance to prove himself. Claiming he can travel around the world in 80 days, he is taken to task by the head of the Academy, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), who wagers it can't be done. Admittedly, in hindsight, it's a bet even Phileas only half-heartedly believes he can win. Nevertheless, accompanied by new valet, the eccentric scientist steps out into a world much bigger and grander than he ever imagined.
Based on a novel by Jules Verne, the movie is a remake of a 1956 film and like the original, it comes with a long cast list. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathy Bates, John Cleese, Rob Schneider, and brothers Luke and Owen Wilson, along with others, all strut across the stage.
The main action, however, is left to Jackie Chan, a man who has successfully moved martial arts onto the big screen as a form of entertainment. Unlike some of his latest comedic attempts with the likes of Owen Wilson, this script leaves out much of the sexual antics and innuendo that kept families away. But they've been replaced with lots of unnecessary violence that pushes the PG rating. A London bobby sent to trail the two adventurers is repeatedly hit in the nose and on the head. He's also thrown from a speeding train and tossed from a second story window. Although the antics are played for laughs, after a while the humor becomes tedious.
Still, if you can handle the slapstick, this story holds promise. While the two men's original motives for circumventing the globe are self-serving at best, both discover things about themselves they never knew. And these positive growth spurts are what makes this trip Around the World in 80 Days a journey for which most families can buy a ticket.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Around the World in 80 Days.
Although Phileas is focused on winning the wager, what important things does he discover about himself and others along the way? How can traveling (or even learning about other places) increase our understanding and appreciation for others?
If you have seen the 1956 version of this film, what things does it include that would no longer be considered politically correct? How does the director deal with some of those same scenes in the new version?