×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

  • Face to Face with German Films

    Face to Face with German Films Unveils the Six ‘Faces’ of 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Teutonic promotional organization German Films has announced that its annual initiative supporting German filmmaking internationally, Face to Face With German Films, will focus on actors and actresses as the campaign enters its fourth year. Six of Germany’s leading thesps – Maria Dragus, Christian Friedel, Luise Heyer, Jonas Nay, Jördis Triebel and Fahri Yardim – will [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    'Green Book' Lands Post-Oscars Theatrical Release in China

    Fresh off Monday’s news that it had picked up five Academy Award nominations, best picture favorite “Green Book” is set for more good luck. The film will hit Chinese theaters on March 1, the first weekend after the Oscars, which fall on Feb 24, Alibaba Pictures announced on its official social media account. The film [...]

  • Fan Bingbing

    Chinese Celebrities Pay $1.7 Billion in Back Taxes Following Fan Bingbing Scandal

    Chinese film and TV stars have paid some $1.7 billion (RMB11.7 billion) of additional taxes, following the mid-2018 scandal surrounding actress Fan Bingbing. The figure was announced Tuesday by China’s State Tax Administration. Chinese authorities launched a probe into the taxation affairs of the entertainment sector in October. Companies and individuals were asked to examine [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Film News Roundup: AMC, Regal to Leave 'Roma' Out of Best Picture Showcases

    In today’s film news roundup, “Roma” will not be in the best picture showcases at AMC and Regal, “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” gets a release and SAG-AFTRA’s David White has a new appointment. ‘ROMA’ SPURNED More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & Piano' TV Review: 'Russian Doll' [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & [...]

  • Paul DavidsonVariety Big Data Summit Presented

    Listen: The Orchard's Paul Davidson on Surviving Sundance Bidding Wars

    Hollywood heads to Park City, Utah this week in the hopes of finding the next big Sundance Film Festival breakout. Paul Davidson, executive vice president of film and television at The Orchard, plans to be in the thick of it. In today’s edition of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, Davidson opens up about The Orchard’s strategy [...]

  • Young Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie:

    James Gandolfini's Son Michael Gandolfini Cast as Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie

    Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play the young Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the  prequel movie to the television series “The Sopranos.” “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said. “I’m thrilled that I am [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content