Around the World in 80 Days Reviews
I guess for people who at the time weren't used to seeing exotic places were wowed by what this film offers, but today it's just an unspectacular and dated travelogue. Don't get me wrong, there are some things I liked. The music is decent, if a little repetitive, the end title credit sequence by Saul Bass is really cool, some of the cameos are fun (SInatra, Carradine, Keaton, Dietrich), and Cantinflas is admittedly an absolute scene stealing joyt to watch, but Niven didn't stand out for me as a wonderful lead, and Shirely MacLaine ,though I like her and understood that she did this film near the beginning of her career, really feels out of place.
The cinematography is quite excellent though, and the locations do look nice (though idealized), but overall, this is just another one of those Best Picture winners that really didn't deserve it.
The film has refreshing touches, but they just shine a light on the conventional aspects which render the final product predictable, and to make matters all the more aggravating, a lot of the tropes are taken from cheesy formulas. The film is not as corny as I feared it would be, thanks to all of the wit, which can still do only so much to dance around the cornball bits, even within characterization that, even in the context of this fluffy pseudo-fantasy flick, can be a little hard to buy into, limiting engagement value which is further shaken by questionable structuring. As I said, this film is simply too long, with momentum being all but completely lost once the film finds itself running into moments of sheer filler, if not overtly extensive observations of the lavish settings which force a sense of immersion, and dilute a sense of progression, though perhaps not as much as the overdrawn dedication toward each segment of this episodic adventure. I reckon the episodicity is more excusable than the many moments of playing Cantinflas' conceptually secondary lead Passepartout character over David Niven's Phileas Fogg lead, but it's still detrimental to focal consistency in this epic which thrives on its episodic shenanigans, seeing as how it doesn't have much conflict to focus on. This film is plenty well-done, despite the aforementioned issues, so the final product could have rewarded if it wasn't so superficial, even in concept, following an ultimately inconsequential story that doesn't have much value beyond the entertainment sort. It's ultimately natural shortcomings which hold the film back, but they certainly make, say, the lengthiness all the more problematic, driving the underwhelming final product as about as challenging as it is lively. Still, the point is that the film is a lot of fun, even with its superficiality, offering scope, charm and even aesthetic value.
Victor Young's Oscar-winning score is far from original, but it's closer to outstanding, with a beautiful whimsy and sweep, not unlike cinematography by Lionel Lindon which is lush and grand in scope, capturing the diverse environments of this adventurous opus beautifully. To be fair, the locations of this film are beautiful by on their own to begin with, as this film explores distinguished culture after distinguished culture, immersing you with its tastes, especially when it enhances the sets with pieces from James W. Sullivan art direction that further capture a sense of dynamicity. Really, the narrative itself is dynamic, not having enough depth or consistency to its layers for an often aimless runtime of around two hours and three quarters to feel justified, but still establishing a lot of potential for range as a cosmopolitan adventure epic. At the very least, there's a potential for entertainment value that is done about as much justice as anything, with director Michael Anderson keeping style and scene structuring tight enough to keep a sense of pacing a whole lot sleeker than the plotting's momentum. Anderson also has a knack for getting across-the-board decent performances, as this cast is full of colorful performances, the most colorful of which being by the leads, with David Niven being charismatic as a visionary and somewhat obsessive adventurer, while Cantinflas, despite having some issues with molding his Mexican accent into a French one, - ...especially during the scenes in which he speaks Spanish - is almost iconically charming as a good-hearted and colorful second-hand adventurer who particularly falls victim to shenanigans. It helps that these leads have plenty of delightful material to work with, because even though James Poe's, John Farrow's and S. J. Perelman's script gets a little excessive and formulaic to be working with such superficial subject matter, it delivers on sharp humor that often rings with moments of hilarity that stand true today, and mark heights in a cleverness that is more recurrently applied to the crafting of dynamic, colorful and altogether memorable set pieces. I've said it time and again, and I once again say that this film is a lot of fun, trying your patience, sure, and not having that much meat to begin with, but still keeping you entertained enough throughout its sprawling course to at least border on rewarding.
When the trip is done, among the many tropes in this film is cheesy occasions, while excessiveness leads to unevenness to the episodic telling of a story that isn't even all that meaty to begin with, having enough superficiality to drive the final product shy of rewarding, but not enough to prevent grand scoring and cinematography, immersive locations and art direction, colorful direction and performances, and a thoroughly clever script from securing Michael Anderson's "Around the World in 80 Days" as a thoroughly fun, if somewhat superficial epic.
2.75/5 - Decent
Around 1872, an English gentleman Phileas Fogg (David Niven) claims he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days. He makes a £20,000 wager (equal to £1,324,289 today) with several skeptical fellow members of the Reform Club, that he can arrive back within 80 days before exactly 8:45 pm. Very funny, with a lot of special appearances, like Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich and Buster Keaton.
Save the main characters and the basic premise, this is nothing like the book. It's like the writers threw it in a blender and poured it, very slowly mind you (3 hours?!), into a movie. The dialogue was all declarative, none of it was used for character development.
The characters are in 2D: in the book Philleas Fogg is a stuck up British gentleman who resents everything in life, and in the movie he shows none of these traits, even contradicting them at times. Passepartout is supposed to be an oafish comic relief, but I didn't even smile once when I saw him.
I'm giving this a Fresh rating because it's more fun than it is good. That is not to say that this is good; it's just awful! But, I do have to give credit to some of the thrills and the extravagant movie sets.
Though the sets and costumes are stylish, every other aspect of the direction is flawed. The cinematography is sunbaked, which causes everything to be glowing white, and the entire cast had no significant presence in any of the scenes.
And now to the flaws. I watched this on a laptop, so I was able to pause and rewind each time there was a movie mistake. And man, were there a bunch. To begin with:
1. During the Japanese gymnast scene, one of the dancers trips and falls over as the curtain closes.
2. After Passepartout first meets the British detective, the image slowly fades away in silence, but you can see that the detective is still talking.
3. After Phileas Fogg, the Princess, and an Englishmen discuss how they will sail home, the camera cuts away to a shot of the ocean, then abruptly cuts back to a shot of them and they are all looking at the ground awkwardly.
4. When Phileas Fogg and Passepartout first fly into Spain in the hot air balloon, they knock over part of a building and ram into a fountain, which almost topples over.
5. During the Indian attack when Passepartout is climbing on top of the train, he is hit by an arrow which simply bounces off of him.
6. While Passepartout is bullfighting, there are two men standing right behind him for obvious safety purposes.
7. When Passepartout meets an American at a bar in front of a serve-yourself-dinner, they begin a little comedy routine where they start handing each other food and stuffing it into each other mouths. After a while this becomes apparently improvised and the comedy becomes strained.
One thing that bored me the most about the film was that for every culture there was an excessively long montage showing one of their celebrations. It might have been entertaining in the 1950s, but this definitely did not age well and is simply obnoxious nowadays.
Shirley MacLaine was really hot when she was young, and she could act too, but there's no evidence of that in her soulless performance as an Indian (WTF?!) princess. Cantiflas... I don't want to be too harsh, but he has a weird mustache and he wasn't the comic relief he should have been. And now to David Niven. Oh David Niven. You win an Oscar a year later, and you can't manage to carry on one decent performance as the most basic movie character you can play? Well, Niven's lack of talent in this role makes his chemistry with the other characters non-existent, and seeing as he's the main character, all chemistry between all the actors is lost in the entire movie.
The bright side of the acting is the numerous cameos of 1950s celebrities in suitable roles. Buster Keaton as a train conductor, Frank Sinatra as a pianist (and possibly the best cameo of all time?), Trevor Howard as a British gentleman, and my favorite: John Carradine in a bombastic performance as a stereotypical 1800s American.
Should this have won Best Picture: Fuck no. Ten Commandments, Giant, and The King and I are reasonable contenders, and Around the World In 80 Days should have just won all the technical stuff.
I wouldn't generally recommend seeing this movie in your own free time, but if you're with a group of children or your younger relatives, than it should be mostly painless. 62/100