×

Just Visiting

"Just Visiting," a slightly shorter and significantly less frenetic reprise of the 1993 comedy that broke box office records (and generated a 1998 sequel) in France, should prove more palatable to mainstream auds on this side of the ocean.

With:
Thibault - Jean Reno Rosalind/Julia - Christina Applegate Andre - Christian Clavier Hunter - Matthew Ross Angelique - Tara Reid Amber - Bridgette Wilson-Sampras Byron - John Aylward Dr. Brady - George Plimpton Wizard - Malcolm McDowell

Considering the frosty reception given “Les Visiteurs” by even the most ardent Francophiles among U.S. arthouse devotees, an Americanized remake — especially one with the same director and two lead players — might seem a dubious enterprise, if not a fool’s errand. But “Just Visiting,” a slightly shorter and significantly less frenetic reprise of the 1993 comedy that broke box office records (and generated a 1998 sequel) in France, should prove more palatable to mainstream auds on this side of the ocean. Without major marquee allure to attract ticketbuyers — and, perhaps more importantly, with a coming-attractions trailer that isn’t at all enticing — pic isn’t likely to be a long-term tenant at many theaters. As cable and homevid fare, however, it may be a welcome guest in many homes.

Jean Reno, arguably best known to U.S. moviegoers for “Godzilla” and “Mission: Impossible,” reprises his portrayal of Count Thibault of Malfee, a noble knight who’s inadvertently transported from the 12th century to contemporary times by an unreliable wizard (originally Pier Vial, now Malcolm McDowell). And Christian Clavier, co-screenwriter of the original and the remake, returns as Andre, the dim-witted servant whom Thibault treats like a dog and feeds accordingly.

Thibault and Andre are dropped into a “time corridor” that leads to Chicago, where artifacts from the nobleman’s castle are on museum display.

For once, something got added in the translation. Maybe some credit should go to John Hughes, who helped co-writers Clavier and Jean-Marie Poirie retrofit their original “Visiteurs” script. The remake, like its predecessor, is top-heavy with broad slapstick, mistaken identities and gross-out gags about Andre’s undiscriminating eating habits. But “Just Visiting” is appreciably less frenzied as it strings together bits and pieces of comical nonsense, emerging as a one-joke comedy that is good for more than a few good laughs.

The gags, many of them recycled from “Visiteurs,” are fairly predictable: The time-travelers mistake a car for a dragon, assume small people are trapped inside a TV set, marvel at electricity and other modern-day wonders, etc. Even so, the wackiness quotient is maintained at a level that is modestly amusing, not gratingly obnoxious. And to their credit, the makers of the remake play fair: During the early 12th century scenes, which detail Thibault’s betrothal to a British noblewoman, they firmly establish that the knight and his squire speak English. That way, it’s not such a big deal when they’re able to communicate, in their own fashion, with modern-day Chicagoans.

Reno strikes a nice balance of pomposity and nobility, canniness and cluelessness, as Thibault tries to regain his equilibrium in the strange new world of 21st century Chicago. Clavier remains a pratfalling clown with an aggressively goofy streak. He’s easiest to take when he finds a kindred spirit in an overworked gardener, Angelique, played as a spirited neo-bohemian by Tara Reid.

A most pleasant surprise is Christina Applegate’s winning performances in two key roles: Rosalind, Thibault’s beautiful British fiancee, whose untimely demise triggers the noble knight’s time-traveling; and Julia, Thibault’s only living 21st century descendant, who’s sweetly oblivious to the infidelities of Hunter (Matthew Ross), her manipulative boyfriend.

Hunter wants to marry Julia for the money she’s certain to have if she sells her family’s ancestral home back in France.

Supporting players are a mixed bag. Ross is a standard-issue slick no-goodnik. As Amber, Hunter’s sexy babe on the side, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras is allowed to do little more than flash a bit of cleavage and roll provocatively across a desk. Fortunately, George Plimpton doesn’t even get to do that much as a befuddled museum director. Malcolm McDowell is largely wasted as the wizard who makes the mistake of sending Thibault and Andre forward in time. Character also makes the great leap to 21st century, but pic doesn’t give him anything funny to do after he arrives.

A co-production of Disney’s Hollywood Pictures and Gaumont, filmed on location in Chicago and at Shepperton Studios in England, “Just Visiting” makes sparing but effective use of Igor Sekulic’s first-rate f/x work to enhance some sight gags. Other tech values are solid.

Just Visiting

Production: A Buena Vista release of a Hollywood Pictures production in association with Gaumont. Produced by Patrice Ledoux, Ricardo Mestres. Executive producer, Richard Hashimoto. Directed by Jean-Marie Gaubert. Screenplay, Christian Clavier, Jean-Maire Poire, John Hughes, based on "Les Visiteurs" written by Poire, Clavier.

Crew: Camera (Astro Lab color, Technicolor prints), Ueli Steiger; editor, Michael A. Stevenson; music, John Powell; production designer, Doug Kraner; supervising art director, Stephen Cooper; art directors, John D. Jeffries Sr., Jonathan McKinstry (U.K.); set designers, Evelyne Barbier, David M. Haber, Dave W. Krummel, Colin de Rouin; set decorators, Tracey Doyle, Peter Young (U.K.); costume designer, Penny Rose; visual effects supervisor, Igor Sekulic; visual effects, Visual Factory; sound (Dolby Digital/ DTS/SDDS), Raymond Cymoszinski; supervising sound editors, Mark Mangini, Elliot L. Koretz; associate producers, Poire, Clavier, John A. Amicarella; assistant directors, Gary Marcus, Dennis Maguire; second unit directors, Gary Davis, David Ellis; second unit camera, Buzz Feitshans IV; U.K. second unit director, Peter Macdonald; U.K. second unit camera, Michael Brewster, Keith Goddard; casting, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith, Kelly Barden. Reviewed at Cinemark Tinseltown Westchase, Houston, April 2, 2001. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 87 MIN.

With: Thibault - Jean Reno Rosalind/Julia - Christina Applegate Andre - Christian Clavier Hunter - Matthew Ross Angelique - Tara Reid Amber - Bridgette Wilson-Sampras Byron - John Aylward Dr. Brady - George Plimpton Wizard - Malcolm McDowell

More Film

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    It’s been a long year for Marvel fans since the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” but the wait is nearly over. The finale to the Infinity Saga is here, and while most diehard fans will know to avoid them for fear of spoilers, early reviews are mostly positive. Last year’s “Infinity War” took home an [...]

  • American Made

    'American Made' Plane Crash Lawsuits End in Settlement

    The producers of the Tom Cruise film “American Made” have settled all litigation surrounding a 2015 plane crash in Colombia that killed two pilots. The settlement resolves pending suits in both California and Georgia. A notice of settlement was filed in Santa Monica Superior Court on Monday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    Film Review: 'Avengers: Endgame'

    SPOILER ALERT: The following review contains mild spoilers for “Avengers: Endgame.” The culmination of 10 years and more than twice as many movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Avengers: Endgame” promises closure where its predecessor, “Avengers: Infinity War,” sowed chaos. That film — which revealed that the cookie-cutter uniformity of all those MCU movies had [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Why a $300 Million Opening Could Be Impossible

    “Avengers: Endgame” is preparing for a staggering debut between $250 million and $268 million in North America alone. Unprecedented anticipation surrounding the Marvel juggernaut has some particularly optimistic box office watchers tossing around even higher numbers, estimating the superhero tentpole could clear nearly $300 million in ticket sales in its first three days. If any film [...]

  • Leonardo Dicaprio Nightmare Alley

    Leonardo DiCaprio in Talks to Star in Guillermo del Toro's 'Nightmare Alley' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Leonardo DiCaprio is in negotiations to star in Fox Searchlight’s “Nightmare Alley,” Guillermo del Toro’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning film “The Shape of Water.” Del Toro will direct the pic and co-wrote the script with Kim Morgan. “Nightmare Alley” is being produced and financed by del Toro and J. Miles Dale with TSG Entertainment, with [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck to Star in and Direct World War II Caper 'Ghost Army'

    Ben Affleck will star in and direct the Universal Pictures caper “Ghost Army,” based on the book “The Ghost Army of World War II,” written by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, as well as the documentary “Ghost Army.” It’s unclear when the movie will go into production as it’s still in development and Affleck is [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content