Film Review: Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
In 1956 Michael Anderson released Around the World in 80 Days, based on the 1873 novel of the same name written by Jules Vern. Starring David Niven Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine, and Robert Newton with appearances by such people as John Carradine, Red Skelton, Buster Keaton, Tim McCoy, Joe E. Brown and Frank Sinatra, the film grossed $42 million at the box office. Nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color, Best Costume Design, Color and Best Director, the Golden Globe for Best Director, and the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, the film won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Writing, Best Screenplay and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama and Best Actor - Comedy or Musical, the National Board of Review Award for Best Film, the New York Film Critics Circle Awards for Best Film and Best Screenplay, the Photoplay Special Award for the development of Todd-AO and use of it in the film, and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy.
After English gentleman and member of the Reform Club Phileas Fogg claims that he can circumnavigate the world in eighty days, he makes a wager of 20,000 Pounds that he can do so. Taking his valet Passepartout, he sets out from Paris by hot air balloon. However, there is a suspicion that he stole 55,000 Pounds from the Bank of England.
Around the World in 80 Days is one where the ending is so well known that the enjoyment of the film comes more from how to get to that ending as most coming into the film either know from the book or have secondhand knowledge of it that Fogg is able to win the bet. However where the real entertainment in the film lies happens to be in his journey, where he ends up going and what he does in every location. For instance, it’s entertaining to see Passepartout take part in a humorous bullfight in Spain or wonder how Fogg is going to get out of the predicament he’s in after Passepartout is drugged and sent ahead of him and Aouda, leaving the two of them without the means to catch up. Further, the two encounters the group has with Indians is also fascinating as it seeks to have a balance and instead of presenting just a war party that impedes the group, there’s also another party that smokes a peace pipe with the engineer of the train they’re on. Further, while it's known that Fogg gets there on time, as stated above, there's still some intensity to see him continually be delayed as he finds he’s still got some time left when he does get back to London, but that also demonstrates his fanatical adherence to punctuality, considering he gets there with seconds to spare.
However, the impediments that hold him from getting back to the Reform Club sooner are only part of the comedy that’s laden throughout the film. Besides the humor of a hiccupping horseman and horse and how societal reformers are holding him back because they’re belief of gambling and holding wagers to be immoral, there’s also Fix and his dedication to sticking with Fogg so he can eventually arrest him, leading to humorous moments and lines of dialogue, like “Follow that ostrich.” There’s also the treatment given to the British and how they view tea time. Not only does it take precedence over Fogg’s escape from India (which is regarded as a crisis to begin with) but Fogg will have tea on the deck of the ship, even if it means doing so in a storm. The film even has a bit of fun in how it portrays Queen Victoria, with a gigantic buildup to the queen getting a newspaper and all the viewers see is a hand. The ending is also pretty humorous with Aouda becomes the first woman to set foot in the Reform Club, causing chaos and some to believe that it’s the end of the British Empire. The sudden and abrupt ending contributes to the humor, too.
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