Jackie Chan as Passepartout/Lau Xing
Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg
Robert Fyfe as Jean Michel
Jim Broadbent as Lord Kelvin
Ian McNeice as Colonel Kitchener
David Ryall as Lord Salisbury
Roger Hammond as Lord Rhodes
Adam Godley as Mr. Sutton
Karen Mok as General Fang
Ewen Bremner as Inspector Fix
Jules Verne’s classic adventure tale of Phileas Fogg’s epic journey around the world has had many movie adaptations, with the most famous being the Michael Anderson 1956 retelling starring David Niven. The 2004 version directed by Frank Coraci takes a different look at the story and centers the action around Passepartout (Jackie Chan), Fogg’s manservant.
The similarities between the movies are numerous. The 1956 film almost invented the cameo and this version follows through and is filled with cameo roles by many well known actors. The use of outlandish color has also been carried over. All of the exotic locations are filled with vibrant colors and extreme caricatures of its residents.
Focusing on Passepartout means that there are some dramatic changes in the story line from both the book and the prior movies. Passepartout now has a purpose and a mission. To compensate, Fogg is no longer just a fastidious upper class snob – he is now a fastidious, upper class, insane inventor snob. The story diversions centered around Fogg’s inventing and the historical personages they meet along the way really detract from the film if you have a science background, the treatment of Lord Kelvin being the largest offense.
By making the date and time of the movie somewhat of a mystery, they are able to throw almost anything they want into it. This turns the film into more of a fantasy at times than a plausible epic adventure, but with Jackie Chan dispatching multiple villains at a time the tone had to be changed.
The acting is hard to pin down. Every character is over the top, by design, which makes the actors’ jobs easier. Some of the characters are reduced to prat falls. Inspector Fix in particular is reduced to a physical comedy target. On a positive side, not having to worry about the characters any does allow for many funny moments at their expense.
Technically, the movie earns high marks. The map animations between locations is done a little too quickly preventing the viewer from seeing everything that is going on in them, which does give something to look forward to in multiple viewings of the film. The music is lively, excluding Jackie Chan singing Frere Jacques, and blends in well with the movie. The locations are beautiful and the cinematography is very good.
Who should see this movie? Jackie Chan fans will get to see him in a role very similar to his role in Shanghai Knights. It is a good lead role for him, and he does get several fight scenes. There is a love story, an epic adventure, sword play, exotic transportation, and physical humor. Pretty much something for almost anyone. There are two exceptions. First is for people that want to think about what they are seeing – the historical inaccuracies and deliberate alterations can be annoying. The second is people that love the original story or the prior movies. The changes are pretty massive and might make lovers of the original works unhappy. Overall, this is a good summer movie for a young audience or people just looking for an escape. Just do not stop to think about it.