My opinion of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’ can be summed up in one sentence: It’s not the worst Best Picture winner ever, but it is not in the top eighty.
The adaptation of the Jules Verne classic is an obvious choice for a film. David Niven plays Phileas Fogg who is challenged to make his way around the world in eighty days. He sets off with his new butler, Passepartout, but meanwhile the Bank of England, has been burgled and people suspect that Fogg might be behind this.
This film is not offensive in any way, and I do not object to it as a concept but it’s also not remotely interesting. The length is painful: I estimate it to be approximately 17 hours long, some scenes seem never ending, and to me it feels essentially like a second rate children’s film but with very little charm.
The characters are totally one dimensional, the script basic and the story totally undemanding, but despite that, it is the production that frustrates me. The film is supposed to be impressive: shots from all over the world in vivid colour, but in doing these grand scenes it neglects its main characters. The close-up shots of Niven are few and far between which means that his acting and expressions are never picked up, and Cantiflas’ Passepartout is such an irritating character that any screen time spent on him does not please.
Fans of film should watch this for one reason: how many famous faces can be spotted? For this reason alone the film is worth the watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Frank Sinatra, Buston Keaton and Marlene Dietrich can all be found making cameo roles, and spotting these screen icons can be a fun pastime. But this is the problem of ‘Around the World in 80 Days’: any film during which the viewer has to entertain themselves by spotting Noel Coward in the background is not worthy of a Best Picture win. Ever. 1956 was not a bad year for the big screen: ‘Giant’ and ‘The King and I’ were both contenders, but regrettably I suppose that any film with such a large cast of real celebrities must have attracted some attention that the academy voters could not ignore. I can understand how this film won when this is taking into account, but I cannot see how anyone could honestly see this film as a genuinely good film, let alone the best picture of any given year.