Ever seen one of those films you really wanted to like but just wouldn't let you?
Firstly, to ward off the common criticism of people who didn't like this film, I hold no special brief for expecting a faithful version of Verne's novel. In fact, the idea of adding Chan to the mix seemed a perfectly workable one. It's the end result that's the problem - too patronising for kids, too infantile for grownups.
Chan's a man famous for suffering for his art, but the pain in Around the World in 80 Days is all on the audience's side. It's rare to come across a $100m+ budgeted film that has virtually nothing going for it, but this appalling misfire comes very, very close. The reworked premise should have offered a workable framework, but in the hands of hack writers and an inept director more at home with Adam Sandler films, the result is just painful to watch - it has the look and feel of something a kid late with his homework assignment knocked off on the bus on the way to school. Not only that, but they barely even travel the world - aside from a couple of days shooting in Paris and a few days in Thailand doubling very unconvincingly for China, the film never leaves the backlot at Babelsburg. They don't even fall back on stock footage much, choosing to link the lame episodes by computer graphics that look like the kind of cheap Christmas decorations you get in dollar shops and which burn the house down if you leave them on too long.
Jackie Chan is wasted as usual by ignorant producers who seem too surprised that he's actually a physical comedian rather than a martial artist (no excrement, Sherlock!) to actually know what to do with him, but fares better than his costars, albeit largely by default. Steve Coogan, often so brilliant on TV, once again fails completely to transfer his abilities to the big screen with an extremely poor and overplayed Phileas Fogg; Cecile de France's uncharismatic heroine is a bit of a pain, to put it mildly; Jim Broadbent's villain is a masterclass in how to get a bad performance out of a good comic actor; Arnold Schwarzenegger in hideous make-up and costume is almost bad enough to make you glad he chucked in the acting for politics (almost); and worst of all, Ewan Bremner's Inspector Fix is the worst performance I've seen this century, a hideously unfunny gurning, shouting monstrosity that plays like a demented Regimental Sergeant Major with a cockney accent even Dick Van Dyke would be ashamed of. The cameos are no better - a far from star-studded bunch (a very unhealthy looking Sammo Hung, John Cleese proving once again he doesn't do funny any more, Kathy Bates flubbing the accent as Queen Vic, Luke and Owen Wilson wasted in both senses of the word as the Wright brothers), with only Rob Schneider raising a laugh. When the appearance of Rob Schneider actually raises the quality of a film for a minute, you know you're in serious trouble. The less said about Mark Addy's no-nippled sea dog the better.
Worse still, it all looks so cheap. You really cannot see where the money went, although the fact that the film is listed as an Anglo-Irish-German co-production makes you suspect a massive tax fiddle. Chan's stunt scenes seem lazy and under-rehearsed, the backlots never convince and Phil Meheux's photography in the first hour is quite dreadful (it looks like a 1970s Universal TV movie). That at least improves as the film progresses. Sadly, nothing else does. Rarely have the words 'The End' been so very, very welcome.