Just Visiting (Les Visiteurs en America)

Just Visiting
(Les Visiteurs en America)
Director: Jean-Marie Poiré
Screenplay:Christian Clavier, Jean-Marie Poiré & John Hughes (based on the 1993screenplay Les Visiteurs by Jean-Marie Poiré and Christian Clavier)
Stars: Jean Reno (Count Thibault), Christina Applegate (Rosalind / Julia), Christian Clavier(Andre), Matthew Ross (Hunter), Malcolm McDowell (Wizard), Tara Reid (Angelique),Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (Amber)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2001
Country: France / USA
Just Visiting
Just VisitingJust Visiting is an Americanized remake of Les Visiteurs (TheVisitors), a 1993 French comedy that is still the highest grossing comedy in its nativecountry. The Visitors didn't do particularly well here in the United States, as itplayed with subtitles in art-house theaters even though it was a broad farce consisting mostlyof slapstick and bathroom humor. I suppose the logic behind the English-language remake isthat it was the subtitles that got in the way of Americans enjoying the movie, rather than thepremise or the jokes.

Granted, Just Visiting is funny enough to earn a few laughs and some smiles, butnot much beyond that. It is essentially a one-joke fish-out-of-water movie about a nobleFrench knight and his peasant servant from the 12th century who are accidentally transportedto Chicago in the year 2000. Slapstick cultural clash ensues with the visitors bathing in thetoilet, eating steak at a first-class restaurant with their bare hands, and marveling at moderninventions like the electric light and the urinal (not to mention destroying a television setbecause they think there are people trapped inside).

Just Visiting was made by the same filmmakers who made both LesVisiteurs and its 1998 sequel, Corridors of Time: The Visitors 2. Directorand co-writer Jean-Marie Poiré returns to helm the movie, while stars Jean Reno andChristian Clavier (who also co-scripted) return to their respective roles as knight andpeasant, albeit with different names. John Hughes (Home Alone, 101Dalmations) collaborated on the script as well, to give it a more American flavor, Isuppose.

The movie opens in the 12th century, where Reno's brave and noble Count Thibault(pronounced "Tee-bow") has traveled to England, along with his servant Andre (Clavier), tomarry a princess named Rosalind (Christina Applegate). There are conspirators againstThibault, however, who use witchcraft to confuse him and cause him to inadvertently kill hisfuture bride. Thibault and Andre enlist the services of a wizard (Malcolm McDowall) to sendthem into the past in order to stop this horrible event from occurring, but the wizardmistakenly sends them 900 years into the future.

Trapped in 21st century Chicago, Thibault and Andre are lucky enough to bump into Julia(also played by Applegate), one of Thibault's descendents who also happens to look exactlylike Rosalind. Julia is engaged to a callous jerk named Hunter (Matthew Ross) who is notonly cheating on her, but trying to convince her to sell off her family's estate just for themoney. In a rather strained plot contrivance, Julia believes that Thibault is actually a distantFrench cousin who is thought to have been lost in a yachting accident.

Reno, whose stoic demeanor and hardened features have made him a mainstay of actionfilms in both France (La Femme Nikita, The Professional) andAmerica (Mission: Impossible, Ronin) is well-cast as Thibault. Heplays the role completely straight, and he is quite convincing as a 12th-century knight.Christian Clavier is also quite good as his dedicated-but-dim servant, whom Thibault treatslike a dog (one of the movie's running joke's is Thibault's cruel treatment of his servant,whom he refers to only as "Peasant"). Andre, however, starts to get other ideas once he isintroduced to notions of democracy and freedom by a hip young gardener (Tara Reid) whoworks next door to Julia.

Just Visiting is never slow or boring, but it's never very funny, either. There are afew extended sequences that work quite well, such as a riotous dinner at an uber-fancyrestaurant that finds Andre eating Thibault's scraps off the floor, but the majority of themovie's jokes are forced and lack in timing and wit. Too often, the filmmakers go for theeasy gross-out, which might have looked good on paper, but doesn't generate real laughs onscreen. The jokes are often obvious and never expand beyond the basic idea of the 12thcentury meeting the 21st. Since this is, for all intents and purposes, the third time around forthe director, writer, and stars, one would have thought they could have developed thepremise a bit more.

Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick

Overall Rating: (2)

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