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Forgive me for constantly comparing this version with the Steve Coogan/Jackie Chan film. I blame my six year old who was asking me “where’s the funny chinese man?” who was absent from this one.
Instead, Latin American Moreno (otherwise known as ‘Cantinflas’) plays a french Passepartout who comes across as Spanish. A little confusing but encompassing many cultures, like the film. In Coogan’s place is the dignified Niven whose depiction of Phileas Fogg is more refined and ‘English’ in the proper sense.
This is a large film in so many ways. It embodies ‘Epic’. Covering continents and cultures, the basic premise is a fascinating one. However, this film feels like it lasts 80 days. It lingers where it shouldn’t to the point where my 6 year old film companion asked for the bull fighting scene to be skipped. Spain must have been a favourite of Director Michael Anderson because the action was covered in oh so much detail with the Flamenco scene then the bulls. We get it, it’s Spain, move on!
Then there was India where white people were painted caramel and given exaggerated costumes to emphasise the fact that, yes, the travellers had made it to India. Now I know the West has come a long way with political correctness (too far?!) but the Indian section of this film is a little cringe-worthy. One of the major characters is Princess Aouda who is played by a BLUE EYED Shirley MacLaine. The only Indian thing about her was her costume.
Fast forward to America. More stereotypes with Native Indians smoking peace pipes and setting the ‘white’ man on fire. Then the white man proceeds to have a shoot up, cowboy style, with these ‘savages’ and all the time the clock tick, ticks away.
This is a fun film. For all our criticisms of political incorrectness and length, Around the World in 80 Days will always be a hoot. The fact that the wager depends on timing gets you excited. Are they going to make it? Will anything get in their way? The humour throughout redeems this film. Especially the scene where they are riding real Ostriches in Hong Kong, so incorrect that it’s hilarious. The final scene is excellent. An apt ending to a looonnnggg journey in more ways than one. Niven rocked, as did Cantinflas. The scenery and cultures, though heavily stereotyped, were fun and interesting. I can see why it won the Oscar but compared with today’s standards, it falls a little flat.
Around the World in 80 Days Trivia: