There cannot be many Film Music on the Web readers unaware of Jules Verne's classic yarn of gentleman Phileas Fogg's (Steve Coogan) bet to traverse the globe in so many days, though this Walt Disney/Walden Media adaptation of Around the World in 80 Days focusing on his valet, Passepartout (Jackie Chan), stands as such a failure at the box-office that awareness of the movie's existence is less certain. Among those consequently overlooked is Trevor Jones, who deserves better artistic recognition in general and, specifically, gives this version of Around the World in 80 Days a collection of eclectic, effervescent symphonic moods.
After three songs - a story-specific world unity anthem 'Everybody All Over the World (Join the Celebration)' featuring David A. Stewart and the Sylvia Young Theater School Choir, 'River of Dreams' performed by Tina Sugandh, and a junkanoo cover of 'It's a Small World' by Baha Men that is actually nice to have, in a goofy sort of way--Jones' 'Around the World Overture' kicks in, in grand style. Thematically, it sounds like warmed-over James Horner, but punchy brass fanfares, hurried woodwinds and strings, a touch of electronic choir, comedic gestures, and a subtle nod or two to Victor Young's memorable score for the 1956 version capably set the tone. The score improves, too, as the voyage across entire continents lends itself to musical vignettes on various cultures, where the accompaniment includes a Parisian accordion, Chinese flute, and a Turkish soprano. Jones also takes advantage of the exploits to demonstrate an astonishing talent for action music. He avoids the 'wall of noise' approach; instead, he leans on declarative brass and melodic phrasing, much in line with John Williams' Hook (absent the multitude of instantly recognizable themes, unfortunately). None of this is especially intense or innovative, but it provides an exhilarating listen nevertheless.
Is that enough to make purchasing the recording worthwhile? All told, the album is hardly special - its packaging adorned with the usual credits and movie stills, the disc offering average sound and performance, and its musical content technically skilled but unspectacular as high art. It is brilliant, rollicking entertainment, however, which is more than one can say of most contemporary soundtracks. Trevor Jones' score for Around the World in 80 Days is definitely enough.