While Jules Verne’s 1873 novel responded to its era’s dizzying technological advancements and the Oscar-winning 1956 movie version pointed to the dawning of global tourism, this latest run-out for gentleman adventurer Phileas Fogg reflects no more major cultural development than Hollywood’s continuing desire to find workable white-guy partners for Jackie Chan. As Steve Coogan’s gung-ho eccentric inventor Fogg battles to oust the villainous head of the Royal Academy of Science (a mugging Jim Broadbent) by traversing the known world in an unheard-of time, the screenplay gives equal import to happy-scrappy Chan, posing as a half-French valet with the hidden agenda of saving his native Chinese village from an evil warlord. Euro starlet Cécile de France joins the team in Paris to add spurious PG-certificate romance interest, and from then on the picture settles down into a rhythm of mild chop-socky, star cameos ranging from pointless (Macy Gray?!?) to plain bizarre (yes, the Governor of California as a frizzy-haired Turkish potentate), Heath Robinson-esque gadgetry giving Coogan a look-in, and naff CGI interludes making out the route.
True, it doesn’t pretend to be anything else except old-fashioned family entertainment, but you keep waiting for anything resembling laughter or excitement. Director Coraci showed his leaden way with physical comedy in the Adam Sandler flick ‘The Waterboy’ and the high-jinks land with a thud here too, Chan’s characteristic energy levels notwithstanding. The material’s far too broad for Coogan’s sly skills, rendering his showing eager but bland, the globe-trotting would-be spectacle unpersuasively setbound, the overall appeal hard to fathom. Except perhaps to sadistic little boys, who might relish trailing police inspector Ewen Bremner’s frequent, painful slapstick humiliation.