You could probably go around the world in a shorter time than it takes to watch this movie
Around the World in 80 Days is a 1956 adventure comedy film directed by Michael Anderson and stars David Niven, Robert Newton, Cantinflas, and Shirley MacLaine. The film won five Academy Awards and was remade later in 2004 starring Jackie Chan.
In 1872 England, noble gentlemen Phileas Fogg makes a wager with his fellow gentlemen in the Reform Club that he can circumnavigate the world within 80 days. Fogg is accompanied by his valet, Passepartout, as the two set out on a worldwide adventure and travel almost every which way possible: by balloon, by boat, by train, and even by elephant. The two make stops in several locations such as Spain, Hong Kong, San Francisco, and the Wild West. Along the way, Fogg and Passepartout meet the young Princess Aouda, and are also followed by Police Inspector Fix, believing that Fogg is a prime suspect in a robbery of the Bank of England.
What a drastic change in pace this film is from previous Best Picture winners. While the nagging problems of dullness and too-long running times are still present, the change-up comes in the form of a film with an ambitious desire for adventure and a tendency to simply have fun. Going around the world in 80 days nowadays would not be such a tall-task (thank you airplanes), but it's certainly interesting to see how someone could accomplish such a feat back in the 19th century.
Around the World in 80 Days does its best to be entertaining, but the movie is like a little kid that got to run wild in the candy aisle of a grocery store. It bloats itself with sugary treats, and has little to no self control about it.
- The Wild West sequence. This whole scene is the most entertaining part of the film, featuring headstrong Indians going after the train that our protagonists are riding on. Poor Passepartout runs on top of the train, but is later captured by the Indians while trying to escape on horseback. Unlike other sequences in the film, this one does not drag on too long and keep the plot chained down in one place.
- The film is adventurous, brushing aside any attempts at mawkish romance and attempts to tell dreadfully boring history lessons. At the sake of being narrow-minded, the film never introduces irrelevant subplots. It wants to go places and indeed it does. If you're ever on the fence about travelling abroad somewhere, maybe this film will give you some inspiration.
- The run-time. To be clear, the film is really around 2 hours and 45 minutes if you cut out the intermission, ending animated title sequence, and exit music. Still, this film suffers from a problem identical to one in The Greatest Show on Earth, with dances and artful routines that long overdue their stay. Whereas The Greatest Show on Earth featured gear-grinding circus acts that generate unnecessary bloat, Around the World in 80 Days has its characters take prolonged stays in the first few countries that they take pit-stops in. It was during a prolonged dance scene in Spain that it hit me that this film is like the younger twin brother of The Greatest Show on Earth, in that they both feature stories that are meant to be fun and entertaining, but are also far too excessive in length. The dance scene in Spain is followed by a bullfighting scene with Passepartout that could get the point across in 5-10 minutes. For whatever reason, it went on for about 15-20 minutes.
- Even though the film is adventurous, the 2nd act sequence with Fogg and Passepartout in the early stages of their journey is unbelievably dull. There's really nothing that I can justify as "exciting" (no, the bullfighting scene is not exciting), since all the two are really doing is just talking and travelling. It's not until after the intermission do things pick up, leaving a full 45-50 minutes where you grow bored by the second.
While I cannot say that Around the World in 80 Days is a bad film, I also cannot think up a legitimate reason to argue that it's a good viewing for the casual movie-goer. The film is still at least watchable 60 plus years later, but its sprawling length and rather dull segments weigh down its ambitious desire for adventure and fun. How do these Best Picture winners keep getting away with being too long and undeniably boring?
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