Based loosely on the 19th century Jules Verne novel 80 Days revolves around two unlikely heroes--the eccentric and reclusive inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) and his (French?) valet Passepartout (Jackie Chan). While Fogg's "wacky" inventions actually make a lot of sense to us modern-day folk including his insights on flight electricity (which he has rigged so that light illuminates with a whistle) and even Rollerblades to his turn-of-the-century contemporaries the scientist is a giant crackpot. Desperate to be taken seriously Fogg makes an outlandish bet with Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent) the head of the London's Royal Academy of Science that he can circumnavigate the globe in no more than 80 days. Impossible you say? Not to Fogg whose obsession with facts and schedules makes him the perfect candidate for such an adventure. With the ever-faithful Passepartout by his side--who has his own secret reasons for joining in on the fun--Fogg heads out on his frantic heart-pounding journey picking up a third traveler a beautiful French artist named Monique (Cécile de France) in the process. But of course the trip doesn't go exactly as scheduled and Fogg as well as Passepartout learn more than a few valuable life lessons along the way. How sweet. Got a toothache yet?
Jackie Chan knows precisely what works for him. Differing slightly from the 1956 adaptation this 80 Days is all about Passepartout as the story tapers itself to fit Chan's specialties. This means you get to marvel once again at his masterful martial arts skills as well as chuckle at his innate sense of physical comedy. As another perfect straight man to Chan's Chinese sensibilities and kung-fu shenanigans Coogan (24 Hour Party People) also does a nice turn as the befuddled and veddy British Fogg while the lovely de France as Monique breathes some fresh air into her ingénue role (and is much more substantial to the plot than the original's Shirley MacLaine who played an Indian princess). Broadbent is adequately sleazy as the pompous Lord Kelvin full of as much hot air as the balloon Fogg and company take a ride in. But 80 Days's extensive list of cameos is the most fun--from Owen and Luke Wilson as the bickering Wright brothers to Rob Schneider as a malodorous San Franciscan hobo to Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Arabian prince (please tell me he made this before he became California's governor). Plus any movie in which Kathy Bates plays Queen Victoria British accent and all has got to be worth seeing .
Minus all the silly songs 80 Days is splashy family fare reminiscent of such films as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factoryand the original 1967 Doctor Dolittle (you know the one with a giant pink sea snail). Supported by glorious sets and costumes director Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer) clearly loves the fanciful adventure of it all creating colorful transitions from one place to the next as Fogg Passepartout and Monique traverse across the globe. But there's always an inherent problem with films of this nature--they tend to be long-winded. The 1956 version of 80 Days which even with a stellar cast including David Niven and Cantinflas drags quite a bit. But with a feisty martial arts expert in the mix this updated 80 Days maintains its momentum for the most part only losing steam towards the end especially after the whole Passepartout subplot in which he has to return a priceless Buddha to his Chinese village is resolved. Suddenly the film becomes just about the race back to London and less about fighting off evil Chinese assassins. Honestly we don't care much about how an uptight British inventor can build a plane out of a boat that will get him back to his final destination in time so he can give a monologue about how his adventure afforded him to make new friends and fall in love. If it's a Jackie Chan movie it's the awesome fight sequences we want to see.
We all knew this was going to happen at some point. When Madonna had a baby with quirky British director Guy Ritchie and then married him, it was just a matter of time before she'd star in one of his movies. Madonna is just as hot as she can be right now, coming off of her "Drowned World" concert tour and spectacular HBO special, and Ritchie is staking a claim in the world indies with his cult hits Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Now Ritchie plans on directing a remake of Lina Wertmuller's 1974 Italian film Swept Away about a spoiled rich woman who goes on a Mediterranean cruise with her husband and friends. The boat's captain is a communist who loathes his clients, but when he and the woman are stranded on a desert island, they end up falling in love. Bruce Greenwood (Thirteen Days) is in negotiations to play the woman's husband, an evil industrialist. The original film starred Mariangelo Melato and Giancarlo Giannini as the combustible lovers. Who the heck is going to generate that same heat with Madonna? Certainly not Willem Dafoe--he already tried that in Body of Evidence and it just didn't work out. Maybe Ritchie should think about acting?
Bullock and Grant in office romance
Sandy and Hugh, sitting in a tree.... The two likeable stars, Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, are pairing for the first time in an untitled romantic comedy from Castle Rock Entertainment and directed by first time helmer/writer Mark Lawrence. Although the plot is being kept closely under wraps, the film apparently explores the question of whether it's ever too late to say "I love you." As a romantic myself, I say of course it isn't!
Bullock's character, Lucy Kelson, is described as a brilliant but slightly neurotic attorney, with Grant playing her charming, irresponsible and ridiculously wealthy boss. Hey, wait a minute. Didn't Grant already play a charming and irresponsible boss to Renee Zellweger's Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones' Diary? Guess this is getting to be a habit for him.
Also, I just discovered that Bullock has finished filming Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood with Ashley Judd for Warner Bros., based on the fabulous best-selling novel of the same name. If you are huge fan of the book, which I am, you can get excited about this one.
A "Cold" day for Cruise
No, this has nothing to do with his divorce from ice princess Nicole Kidman. However,Tom Cruise is eyeing the big screen adaptation of another best-selling novel Cold Mountain to be his next feature film, a co-production between MGM and Miramax.
Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) wrote and will direct the adaptation about a wounded Confederate soldier (Cruise) who, in the final days of the Civil War, walks home to North Carolina to the woman he loves. However, Cruise isn't in yet. Other big names have been attached including Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Daniel Day-Lewis. So, we'll see who the best man for the job is.
Personally, I'd pick Daniel Day-Lewis, if he was available. He'd bring that quiet intensity he's known for to a role that sounds right up his alley.
Hanks is caught
If you remember last week's column, I mentioned director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks were finally going to get the intriguing story Catch Me If You Can off the ground. The film centers around Frank Abagnale Jr., an imposter and counterfeiter in the 1960s who was the youngest person to ever be on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List. The film already has Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star as Abagnale and now it looks like Tom Hanks may play the role of FBI agent Joe Shaye. Shaye tracked down and captured Abagnale after six years, and during their cat-and-mouse game Shaye and Abagnale came to enjoy their interaction and ultimately became friends. Shaye was instrumental in getting Abagnale released from prison after five years on the condition that he teach and assist federal law enforcement agencies--without pay. Abagnale is now 53 and currently lectures extensively at the FBI Academy.
Prince Charming is a cad
Hyde Park Entertainment has picked up the pitch Long Ago and Far Away from writers David Titcher and Diane Saltzberg. This really isn't a role call yet, but I had to mention this because I just love the idea. The story combines several classic fairy tales to tell the story of Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty who all come to find out they are married to the same Prince Charming. Now, if I were casting this, here's a few suggestions: Helen Hunt as Sleeping Beauty, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Snow White, Gwyneth Paltrow as Cinderella and George Clooney as Prince Charming. Let's see if my choices are anywhere near close.
A hip-hop "9 to 5"
Will Smith wants to remake 9 to 5 with an all-black cast, and gosh darnit, he should go for it! We all remember the delightful 1980 film with Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, as co-workers who are disgruntled with their sexist and abusive boss. Through a series of wild events the trio ends up kidnapping him and running the office themselves. Of course, in a Smith world, he'd most likely cast himself as the boss and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith as one of his girls. As well as remake that Dolly Parton song with a definite hip-hop beat. I can see the video now.