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Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.


Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris


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Movie review

Hot air and high jinks

By BILLY NORRIS
Published June 21, 2004

photo
[AP]
Risk-taker Passepartout (Jackie Chan), who has his own daring agenda, signs on as valet to inventor Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) in Around the World in 80 Days.

Billy Norris
Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

Around the World in 80 Days

RATING: PG for action violence, some crude humor and mild language

SUMMARY: Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan) is a desperate inventor longing for acceptance in the skeptical science community of the Royal Academy of Science in 1872 England. His inventions constantly push the envelope of sanity, and his successes are few and far between. Meanwhile, a man named Lau Xing (Jackie Chan) has stolen the jade Buddha from the highly guarded Bank of England. The Buddha is a spiritual symbol that was taken from Lau Xing's small Chinese community. He is on the run and knows that an easy escape back to his homeland, to return the Buddha to its rightful place, will be impossible. He literally drops into Fogg's lap. Fogg happens to be searching for a new valet, and Lau Xing, or Passepartout (the name he gives himself to pass himself off as a Frenchman), decides to fill the role. Fogg, in a moment of anger and frustration, makes a wager with archrival and top skeptic Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), the head of the Royal Academy, that he can make it around the world in 80 days. If Fogg wins, Kelvin must forfeit the position as head of the Royal Academy to him, but if Kelvin wins, Fogg must pack up, leave town and never invent again. Passepartout sees this as his ticket home, and he agrees to go on the treacherous journey with Fogg.

MY VIEW: This is just a silly, fun movie that obviously doesn't take itself very seriously. It is a loose adaptation of the novel of the same title by Jules Verne and the 1956 film by Michael Anderson. The similarities, though, begin and end with its basic premise. Unlike films such as The Medallion, The Tuxedo and even Shanghai Knights, this one isn't just another Jackie Chan movie. It serves as more than a vehicle for Chan's aging stunt work, which started its decline a few years ago. The stunts are still there but in moderation, which allows Chan the chance to be just another supporting actor in this zany movie. Coogan and Cecile De France, who plays Monique La Roche, Fogg's love interest and traveling partner, are well-suited to their roles, but it's the cameos that take the cake. They are witty and seriously spoofy - Owen and Luke Wilson as the Wright brothers, Kathy Bates as the Queen of England, and Rob Schneider as, well - a street bum. The most outrageous, though, was California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the giddy, self-infatuated Prince Hapi, a part he played totally tongue-in-cheek - I hope! The popup storybooklike transitional scenes remind us that this one is for kids, too. A film like this obviously can't rid itself of the cliched happy ending, but it is another summer offering in the all-too-sparse family movie genre, and a good time will be had by all.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Chan fans may be disappointed that this is not two hours' worth of martial arts. But it is good, clean fun that will inevitably appeal to younger audiences, as well as teens.

GRADE: B-

- Billy Norris, 16, will be in the 11th grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

[Last modified June 18, 2004, 14:11:19]

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  • Movie review
  • Hot air and high jinks
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