Around the World in 80 Days Reviews
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
However, it was fairly entertaining. Made so mostly by the scenery and excellent cinematography. Felt like a travel documentary.
The occasional humour also helps.
Performances are nothing to write home about. David Niven is overly stuffy as Phileas Fogg. (But that's all he knows how to do). Supporting cast have a host of big names in minor, sometimes very fleeting roles: Noel Coward, Sir John Gielgud, Trevor Howard, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, John Carradine, Buster Keaton.
Certainly didn't deserve a Best Picture Oscar, but not that bad.