Well folks, this is it: the final day of our 7 Days of Jackie Chan. I can't believe it's been a week already. Where did the time go? Oh yeah, it went into watching these movies and writing seven different blog posts about them and then laying it all out. I guess I forgot. Huh.
How are you feeling, by the way? I'm well, thanks. Kind of sad, you know, since this is our last day together and everything. I've gotta say, it's been great getting to know you better. Jackie too, of course. I feel like the three of us will always be connected somehow, even if you run into me at Walgreen's in a few weeks and don't really want to say hi but it's too late, I already saw you so it would be more awkward if you didn't. Don't worry. That won't matter. I know what we've shared here. I know you really are deep inside.
With that said, it looks like JV has a song he wants to sing to commemorate our last day together. I think you'll enjoy it. Hit it, Jackie!
Wow. That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and loved, like I got a hug from a hundred different stunt men in a row...in 1986. Don't you feel that too? Wow.
So. What's the last movie we're going to talk about for our inexplicable yet innocuous weeklong Jackie Chan celebration?
Around the World in 80 Days. The Disney movie. From 2004.
I know what you’re thinking - this movie was destined to suck.
Around the World in 80 Days comes from a time when movies started to not be movies anymore: they could finally, at long last, come out of the closet and just be commercials. In addition, studio execs had just began to work on formulating the whole book-to-movie phenomenon that Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings had begun. So this adaptation of the Jules Verne classic became a bit of a casualty of this era.
And it's pretty damn obvious. This was the type of movie that was all in the pitch. “Let’s remake Around the World in 80 Days, but make it like Rush Hour. That’s the only way anyone will want to sit through it. Kids and their dads will love it. And the moms will think it's cute.”
80 Days follows the Rush Hour formula quite well, actually. You have your main character, played by Steve Coogan, who’s the wisecracking comic relief or whatever. And then you have Jackie Chan, who’s once again relegated to being the cartoon sidekick, the straight man with a sunny disposition who does all the heavy lifting.
But you know, I’ve seen a lot worse.
Okay, so the film’s plot is nothing more than the thinly disguised connective tissue that helps unify a string of set pieces with celebrity cameos attached to them. And the actual character development is mostly bogarted by Coogan's Fogg. Even though Chan’s Passepartout has a mission and his own personal storyline, it’s nothing more than very watered down Indiana Jones flavored hi jinx. (Sound familiar?) Once that gets resolved over halfway through the film, there’s really not much else for Chan to do outside of jump around and be the smiley supporting character.
And yet...his performance as Passepartout has a sweet charm that’s very much needed in order to for the film to actually work. As I continued to watch 80 Days, I kept wondering what it would be like if Jackie Chan wasn’t in it. Would it be a better movie? No, not even close. Without Chan's sincerity, 80 Days’ running time would feel much more like its title. You can’t deny that he’s the heart of the whole film.
And what about those action sequences, anyway? They’re okay. Yes, just okay. They’re not memorable, but they’re also not dull, either. Mostly, they serve as punctuation between expository scenes that push the plot forward when the funny stuff gets too stale. The most creative use of fight scene choreography is towards the beginning, when Passepartout and Fogg are in a gallery in France. Chan’s goes all acrobatic as he fends off evil stuntmen, inadvertently creating a painting in the process. Adorable? Yes, but when compared to something like the balls out insanity we witnessed in Police Story just a couple days ago, it’s quite literally nothing to write home about.
I have to admit, the partnership of Coogan and Chan may have seemed unlikely at first, but as the plot keeps unfolding in front of us, it quickly becomes the film’s saving grace, next to the overwhelming amount of cameos that are enjoyable distractions. Because of those, 80 Days eventually feels like a very long Saturday Night Live skit with heart.
Was this the most ideal movie to end the 7 Days of Jackie Chan on? Yes and no. Yes, because it takes a huge leap forward from yesterday's film, which got his foot in the door to the annals of American cinema. (Say that word wrong and I'll slap you. And maybe giggle.) 80 Days shows us what the ultimate repercussions this entry point had on his career, public image and global popularity.
By showing us just how comical, family-friendly, and marketable Chan eventually became, this film is the perfect choice to counterbalance Day 1's Dragon Fist. Think about it. It's from a completely different time, industry and world. The juxtaposition between the two is important to display when tracking the movie career of this Kung Fu master.
On the other hand, 80 Days wasn't an ideal film to end the 7 Days of Jackie Chan with. Despite its good nature and slightly empowering story, it's unarguably an inferior movie to every single one of the others we've seen the past few days.
That's because there is a hollowness to this film. There's a hole in it somewhere that's been filled with silly cameos, cartoon gags and so much candy floss. Even though it has a tremendous budget, 80 Days lacks the atmospheric grace of the much simpler Shaolin Wooden Men and Armour of God's swashbuckling matinee glee.
What would have been a fitting movie to end our Jackie week on? Please don't say Rush Hour. Or Rush Hour 2. Or Rush Hour 3. And no Shanghai Noon, ugh. I wasn't going to go anywhere near that one.
Shit! You know what? I could have been writing about The Tuxedo this whole time! What the hell. How did I forget that movie existed? Probably because I've never seen it. Oh man.
Well, it's been great. Maybe I'll write about The Tuxedo sometime and you'll come back to me. I know you'll come back to me. I've always known. I'll be waiting...