Movies I Need To See Before I Die: AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956)

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(This is a column where I review movies that I have never seen, but SHOULD have.  Being a film Geek, I have seen a ton of films.  But life is also very short, and for one reason or another, there are quite a few flicks that I have never got to.  Sure, it probably doesn’t matter if I ever see a movie like PARENTAL GUIDANCE, but a movie like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA…. well, I should have seen that already.  I’m a film geek for God’s sake!  I have now decided that I should get on that before I get too old.  I have compiled a list of films that I WANT or NEED to watch, and am going to start watching them when I have spare time.  So I will randomly be posting reviews of movies that I have always wanted or needed to see.  Enjoy!)

This one has a pretty lousy reputation.  It won best picture back in 1956, beating GIANT, FRIENDLY PERSUASION, THE KING AND I, and THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.  It also won best adapted screenplay, best score, and best editing.  But even though it won all of these awards, many film buffs say that this is one of the worst movies ever to win best picture.  It has a star-studded cast and is loaded with cameos.  I tend to like these classic, big, bloated Hollywood productions, so I have always wanted to see this one.  So I was pretty optimistic when I sat down to watch this.

Loosely (and I mean LOOSELY) based on Jules Verne’s classic novel, AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS stars David Niven as stuffy British man Phileas Fogg, who wagers a bunch of other English snobs that he can travel around the world in 80 days.  They take the bet.  Along with his colleague Passepartout, they leave in a hot air balloon, then it crashes and they must find other ways to get across the globe.  Things like animals , trains and boats.  Along the way they get into some misadventures.  Like rescuing a beautiful princess from being sacrificed by some natives, and fighting indians in the old west.

And that’s pretty much the plot.  But the reason to see this is not for the plot, but for the exotic locations and fun adventure…….  Unfortunately, this movie is not fun at all.  In fact, it’s down right one of the most boring movies I have ever seen.  Fucking nothing happens in this movie!  Nothing!  They go from one location to the other, talk to some people, then travel to the next location.  There isn’t any humor at all (or at least humor that works) to be found.  There are countless scenes of just Fogg and his charisma-less partner traveling and going places.  No dialogue.  Just shots of them in a hot air balloon as we see some pretty neat scenery.  I know the reason for this was to take advantage of the new Cinerama process, but these moments completely stop the pace of the picture.  What should have been a fast paced, high energy romp turns out to be a slow-moving slog.  For example, this is how one scene plays out:  Fogg arrives at a new country.  They talk with the leader.  They are invited to a dance presentation.  Then they watch the dance  And that’s it!  Nothing happens!  The whole bloody movie is like that!

It would help if the performances and characters were fun, but they’re not.  David Niven is merely hanging out on the set here.  His character is boring, and his acting is boring.  His performance is painfully British.  In fact, you probably can’t get any more British than this.  Cantinflas plays Fogg’s sidekick, and he couldn’t be less appealing.  He’s annoying and generally unlikable.  And then there’s Shirley MacClaine as the princess/love interest.  Now, this is an actress who is just loaded with charisma and charm, and yet, she exhibits none of these qualities here.  She is one-dimensional and boring.  And then there’s the cameos, which are pretty pointless.  I mean, all these famous actors show up for a couple of seconds just so the audience can say, “Look!   It’s Frank Sinatra playing a piano!”.  Who fucking cares?  Have him do something at least.  It’s nice seeing Red Skelton and George Raft, but give them something to do.

Michael Anderson’s direction couldn’t be more unimaginative and flat.  A movie like this should be swimming in creative whimsy, and a sense of wonder.  There’s nothing of that sort here.  The filmmaking is drastically dull.  Just boring mastershots.  And the 2nd unit photography of all the exotic locations dominates the movie.  It’s like a boring travelogue.  The script is pretty uneventful.  It really felt like no effort went into this movie at all.  And it’s three hours!  It felt more like six!  And the movie hardly has an ending either.  It just kind of stops.

So I’m going to have to agree with most people on this one.  This IS one of the worst movies to win Best Picture.  I just don’t see the appeal.  The concept had potential, but the execution is extremely lazy.  This is one flat motion picture.  But if you’re having trouble sleeping at nights, then I have the perfect remedy.  It’s called AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.  ★ (out of ★★★★)

Not rated, has some mild action.  Still would probably be rated PG by the MPAA, but maybe should be G?

Running time: 3hrs. 1min.

(AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS is available to rent on DVD from Netflix)

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Movies I Need To See Before I Die, Reviews

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1 reply

  1. We are in complete agreement on this. I think the idea was to sell the film as an exotic travelogue, featuring amazing locales on a big theatre screen. This is back when the only thing television wasn’t able to do like the movies was spectacle. But it’s all such empty spectacle. You are right on, buddy. This film is dull and honestly I always felt that the Oscars that year were greased with people calling in favors.

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