Just Visiting (Les Visiteurs en America)
Screenplay : Christian Clavier, Jean-Marie Poiré & John Hughes (based on the 1993 Les Visiteurs by Jean-Marie Poiré and Christian Clavier)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2001
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)
Just Visiting is an Americanized remake of Les Visiteurs (The Visitors), a 1993 French comedy that is still the highest grossing comedy in its native country. The Visitors didn't do particularly well here in the United States, as it played with subtitles in art-house theaters even though it was a broad farce consisting mostly of slapstick and bathroom humor. I suppose the logic behind the English-language remake is that it was the subtitles that got in the way of Americans enjoying the movie, rather than the premise or the jokes.
Granted, Just Visiting is funny enough to earn a few laughs and some smiles, but not much beyond that. It is essentially a one-joke fish-out-of-water movie about a noble French knight and his peasant servant from the 12th century who are accidentally transported to Chicago in the year 2000. Slapstick cultural clash ensues with the visitors bathing in the toilet, eating steak at a first-class restaurant with their bare hands, and marveling at modern inventions like the electric light and the urinal (not to mention destroying a television set because they think there are people trapped inside).
Just Visiting was made by the same filmmakers who made both Les Visiteurs and its 1998 sequel, Corridors of Time: The Visitors 2. Director and co-writer Jean-Marie Poiré returns to helm the movie, while stars Jean Reno and Christian Clavier (who also co-scripted) return to their respective roles as knight and peasant, albeit with different names. John Hughes (Home Alone, 101 Dalmations) collaborated on the script as well, to give it a more American flavor, I suppose.
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), to marry a princess named Rosalind (Christina Applegate). There are conspirators against Thibault, however, who use witchcraft to confuse him and cause him to inadvertently kill his future bride. Thibault and Andre enlist the services of a wizard (Malcolm McDowall) to send them into the past in order to stop this horrible event from occurring, but the wizard mistakenly 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 exactly like Rosalind. Julia is engaged to a callous jerk named Hunter (Matthew Ross) who is not only cheating on her, but trying to convince her to sell off her family's estate just for the money. In a rather strained plot contrivance, Julia believes that Thibault is actually a distant French 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 action films in both France (La Femme Nikita, The Professional) and America (Mission: Impossible, Ronin) is well-cast as Thibault. He plays 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 treats like 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 is introduced to notions of democracy and freedom by a hip young gardener (Tara Reid) who works next door to Julia.
Just Visiting is never slow or boring, but it's never very funny, either. There are a few extended sequences that work quite well, such as a riotous dinner at an uber-fancy restaurant that finds Andre eating Thibault's scraps off the floor, but the majority of the movie's jokes are forced and lack in timing and wit. Too often, the filmmakers go for the easy gross-out, which might have looked good on paper, but doesn't generate real laughs on screen. The jokes are often obvious and never expand beyond the basic idea of the 12th century meeting the 21st. Since this is, for all intents and purposes, the third time around for the director, writer, and stars, one would have thought they could have developed the premise a bit more.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick