Picks and Pans Review: Around the World in 80 Days
Don't get your hopes up about this reissue of the 1956 film that won five Oscars, including Best Picture. Time has not been kind to late producer Mike Todd's version of the 1873 Jules Verne classic about proper Britisher Phileas Fogg, who wagers that he can circle the globe in 80 days. The movie just slogs along, despite an elegant performance by David Niven as Fogg and a warmly humorous one by the Mexican comic Cantinflas as Fogg's valet, Passepartout. What hurts the film today is the very thing that helped make it big box office then: its size. One of the pioneers in wide screen as a weapon against television, Todd used a 65-mm process that with typical modesty he labeled Todd-AO. But like a kid with a new toy, Todd didn't know when to stop with the darn thing. At 178 minutes, the film doesn't so much utilize its many locations, including London, Paris and Madrid, as exhaust them. For Todd a handful of stars wasn't enough, either. He used 44 names in bit roles (first called "cameos" by Todd). A novelty then, overuse has made it an irritation by now. For every star on the order of a Sinatra or Dietrich, there's a satellite such as Cesar Romero, Jack Oakie and Andy Devine. Todd wasn't above putting a few things over on the audience—he was salesman as much as showman, and in this flaccid film his is the only real energy. So how to explain that Around the World took the Oscar in the year of Giant, The Ten Commandments and The King and I? Todd's reputed idol, P.T. Barnum, had an answer: There's one born every minute. (G)
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