‘Around the World in 80 Days’ or — Kill Me Now?

Warning — contains strong language and irrational thought processes.

Michael Anderson’s ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ (1956) is colourful, lavish, star-studded, spectacular, exotic, beautifully shot but, most of all, it’s tedious as fuck! Christ, this might be the dullest movie ever made and is so long, so drawn out, it would feel quicker actually going round the fucking planet itself. Yep, this one royally pissed me off so strap in, folks. This could be a bumpy trip.

It all starts off quite promising with the unflappable, unruffable and imperturbable Phileas Fogg accepting a bet at the Reform Club that it is possible to circumnavigate the globe in only 80 days, and all this against a backdrop of exquisite sets and sumptuous cinematography. David Niven as Fogg? Great casting. Shirley MacLaine’s in this too? Can’t wait! And it all looks so pretty and utterly delightful.

Yet no sooner has Fogg taken his first step outside the Club than the entire film doesn’t so much grind to a halt as completely fail to get going in the first place, as though Fogg has turned into a slimy liquid and has simply started slowly dribbling down the steps of the Reform Club like some sluggish discharge with all the time in the world.

Fogg and his servant, Passepartout (Cantinflas), certainly visit all sorts of wondrous places but, once there, they immediately annihilate any charm or excitement these locales might inherently possess by engaging in excessive bouts of tedious arsing around. For example — there’s a scene in Spain where Passepartout fights a bull which drags on for so long I was expecting the poor animal to die from old age.

They then visit India where they rescue a Princess as well as we, the viewer, excitedly discovering that Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard is following Fogg whom he suspects of having robbed the Bank of England. Ooh, now things should pick up as we suddenly have a love interest AND a detective snapping at Fogg’s heels. Except NONE of this adds any passion or excitement in the slightest because Niven plays Fogg as so sexually inert he might as well be a pencil meaning there’s ZERO chemistry between him and the Princess whilst Inspector Fix ends up actually helping Fogg in his voyage so that’s that tension totally buggered, too.

Maybe things will pick up when Shirley MacLaine appears. I love Shirley MacLaine. But I was sitting there waiting for her to pop up and, after two hours, there was no sign of her. Where is she? Maybe I should look clos… wait, she’s the Princess?! I had NO idea!

It’s not that she’s hidden under a load of somewhat offensive make-up (which she is) that made her almost impossible to identify but the fact that this film has totally stripped her of any of her effervescent charm, her sparkle or smile. In fact, I don’t even think she smiles once in the entire movie. Maybe briefly at the end but that could be from relief that the film is finally fucking over. It is a complete waste of MacLaine and, in my opinion, that’s unforgivable.

But it is the character of Fogg, himself, that might be the biggest problem as unflappable, unruffable and imperturbable might be fine qualities to actually get around the world in 80 days but by Christ, they are not qualities you want in your lead character, especially if you want any drama or tension occurring on the screen at any level whatsoever. I mean, how can you get carried away or desperately cheer someone on when they’re just swanning about because they know everything’s going to be okay? Well, if you’re not going to get excited about any of this then neither I am so fuck you, Fogg!

By the end, when they are on the paddle steamer and wondering what else to burn to keep the engines going, I kept hoping they’d start using the rest of the movie as fuel and start chucking that in instead. Anything just to make it all end sooner.

Fortunately the film does finally end… only to then plunge into a SIX FUCKING MINUTE animated short where we have to sit through the entire fucking film all over again!!! It was then I started hyperventilating.

Are there any positives? One, and that’s the second unit cinematography is rather nice but it’s all so incongruous compared to the leaden main unit stuff that it feels like someone has simply spliced in some outtakes from Ron Fricke’s ‘Baraka’ (gorgeous panorama footage, etc) into the move at random. And listen, I’m not saying Michael Anderson’s directing is lame or hobbled but if it was a horse it would’ve been taken round the back of the stables and shot.

As I’m sure you can tell, I really hated this movie. No, that’s a total lie — I RESENTED it. I resented its length. I resented its tedium. I resented that it presented a story I love in such a grindingly dull manner. But, most of all, I resented how boring it rendered Shirley MacLaine to the point of her being unrecognisable.

Don’t watch this movie. It’s only worth it for the colours, costumes and cinematography so you’ll definitely need weed. And I mean A LOT of weed to get through this one, folks.

Comedy writer, radio producer and director of large scale audio features.