Around the World in 80 days is playing in cinemas now.
Those of a certain age may remember an animated TV adventure series shown on Children’s BBC in the early 1990s. It had a catchy theme tune, a colourful palette and a host of animals in the lead roles; ring a bell? No, it wasn’t Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds; it was the other one, Around the World in 80 Days with Willy Fog. Here, the classic Jules Verne novel found a new, distinct voice as a lion and cat took the lead roles in a Spanish/Japanese co-production dubbed into English.
Of course, this was not the first animated adaptation of Verne’s novel. In fact, Around the World in 80 Days has found itself at the heart of animation for many years. But it was a rare adaptation that used the animal kingdom as its main cast. But, now we have another. This time, Phileas Fogg is a streetwise frog with a spring in his step, while his travelling companion Passepartout is an eager marmoset, keen to cut the strings that attach him to his overbearing mother. However, unlike the book, they find themselves thrown together in adventure—one escaping a local gerbil police chief while the other flees his controlling mother.
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The journey that ensues is fun, colourful and engaging, its humour appealing to a cross-section of ages. In fact, it’s hard to find anything to dislike or criticise in this animated adventure. That said, Around the World in 80 Days offers little new content apart from its mix of 3D and 2D animation. Here, the jokes are standard fare, the journey of self-discovery and friendship tried and tested. But, it’s clear the French-Belgium production team know this, their light and bouncy screenplay playfully commenting on the film’s commitment to tried and tested animated cliches. And while the animation may occasionally feel slightly bland, the story carries a rough and ready charm that will warm even the coldest soul.
Around the World in 80 Days may not break new ground or sit at the summit of modern animation, but it does carry a truckload of gags and warmth. Therefore, while it may not light up the imagination, it offers eighty-two minutes of joyful escapism. And let’s face it with the world in such a challenging place; we all need some escapism, laughter and simplicity in our lives.