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Oscars Challenge #53: Around the World In 80 Days (1956) Movie Review

Around the world poster

The Best Picture winners in the 1950s are composed of epic large-scale movies that often make your jaws drop. Films in this decade, like the chariot arena in Ben-Hur, the grand circus of The Greatest Show on Earth, or the bridge in The Bridge on the River Kwai, are all gigantic set pieces that astound you compared to recent movies where everything is CGI-heavy.

Unlike other Best Picture winners, this one starts with footage of Edward R. Murrow and the movie A Trip To The Moon (1902). But the real story is about a very ambitious English gentleman named Phileas Fogg. He proudly claims that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. Since it is a feat never done before, he is mocked because it seems impossible. Phileas made a bet that he would travel across the world in 80 days and would come back before 8:45 in the evening. Together with his resourceful and athletic French valet, Passepartout, they venture across the globe with their wits and determination. They experienced different things in several places, like participating in a bullfight in Spain, rescuing an Indian princess, etc., while eagerly trying to make it back before the deadline.

The story is based on a classic and popular 1873 book of the same name. David Niven, Cantinivas, and a very young Shirley MacLaine star in this movie as Phileas Fogg, Passepartout, and Princes Aouda, respectively. Michael Joseph Anderson directs this film.

What's astounding about this movie is the sheer scale of its epic sets and location. Here are some statistics of those:

  • More than 68,000 people, including the extras

  • Almost 8,000 animals, including 15 elephants, 17 bulls, 512 monkeys, 800 horses, etc.

  • $410,000 worth of costumes (Around 75,000 of them were made).

  • Filmed across 13 countries in different locations

  • 140 Sets

  • Produced 680,000 feet of film

If you ask me, it's a no-brainer why it won the Best Picture award. Considering the effort, money, time, and passion for making this film, it's marvelous. They even used all the people in the small town of Chinchon as extras.

There is so much in this film that even if the story is subpar, you want to forgive it. The story is a little so-so, but the comedic parts are hilarious. I laughed at the scene when Passepartout grabbed a handful of snow above the mountain and used it to chill the champagne or wine Fogg was drinking.

I like the characters, especially Phileas Fogg's valet. The two main characters are hilarious and may seem unusual initially, but their chemistry is undeniable. I wouldn't say I like Shirley MacLaine's role in this movie as the Indian Princess. They could have hired a real Indian actress to make the part more ethnic, but they settled for an American actress instead. She is a great and talented actress, but I don't think she fits her role in this movie. Aside from the main characters, they hired 40 famous actors and actresses as cameos in this movie. One example is Frank Sinatra, who didn't say a word in this film.

This movie excels in the visual aspect. Everything is colorfully aligned. The costumes are lovely, and the locations they visited are jaw-dropping. I wouldn't say I liked that they dyed the Indians' skin to have the same complexion.

The book garnered a lot of remakes, but the more recent ones have been critically acclaimed for diverting the story farther away from the original. You don't need to watch all of them because each talks about the same thing.

I think this is the definition of what a gigantic movie is like. Everything in this movie is about as glorious as you can imagine. Despite starting a little slow, I think, overall, it is entertaining. I still despise the Indian princess, though.

This film is a solid 3.5 out of 5 stars for me.

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