Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: Around the World in 80 Days

It begins well, with an introduction by Robert Osbourne, declaring this one of his favorite movies, and giving a history of Jules Verne in film. The perky, playful theme music leads you not to take this movie too seriously, and seriously, why would you?

David Niven, in the role he was born to play, takes on the lead role of Phileas Fogg, who today would be diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder or some other neurosis that my high school classmates would have called "anal." Mr. Fogg, an uptight prig with control issues makes a bet at his gentleman's club, wherein he can travel around the world in the titular 80 days.

Accompanying Mr. Fogg is his nearly-hired French valet, Passepartout. Director Michael Todd decided that, rather than hire a Frenchman to play this role, he would woo Cantinflas to make his first (possibly only, from what I can determine) English-speaking film. He does an excellent job in the acrobatic and bullfighting roles that were built into the part for him.

The two embark on their adventure, with Passepartout providing far more entertainment value as he muddles his way through various foibles than the unflappable Fogg ever could. Niven must recognize his costar's appeal, as he seems content to play straight man.

The result is a pretty entertaining experience.

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