Since it's Oscar night I thought it would be appropriate for another overrated film rant so here's my stab at 'Around the World in 80 Days'. No I'm not talking about the Jackie Chan Disney flick. I'm referring to the David Niven Oscar winner of 1956.
Most people of my generation probably haven't seen this film, nor have they probably heard of it. Based on Jules Verne's book, the movie follows the adventures of Phileas Fogg and his loyal servant Passepartout as they attempt to win a bet with Fogg's social club members. Fogg believes that Victorian era transportation can ensure a man can make it around the world in 80 days to which his upper crust peers balk at. Determined to prove his point Fogg places the high wager and uses various modes of transportation such as steamboats, trains, and even a hot air balloon to traverse our large world.
The movie is not without it's merits, which are few, but 183 minutes the film drags in long scenery shots. It's basically a large budget travel movie with a thin plot. David Niven plays a great snooty Victorian era businessman; however he gets rather annoying after the first half hour of the show. Cantinflas is funny at times as Passepartout, but his hijinks get old quick. His encounter with a Hindu cow can probably be deemed as racist to most viewers nowadays.
The best part of the movie is the opening to which a narrator (Edward R. Murrow) describes the importance of Jules Verne chronicling his writing career and the observations he made about our shrinking planet. The photography in the film is beautiful, but without a strong narrative it fails to capture the audience. Still 'Around the World in 80 Days' won Best Picture in a shallow pool of nominees including 'The Ten Commandments', 'The King and I', 'Giant', and 'Friendly Persuasion'.
"Not only the beginning of cameos, this was also the beginning of large, flashy, special-effects ladden spectacles that did more for the dazzling of the eye than it did for the mind." - Michael Szymanski