Imagine "Crocodile Dundee" with a 12th Century knight in Chicago instead of a leathery lifelong Outbacker in New York, and you've pretty much got the crux of "Just Visiting," a slapsticky, Hollywood remake of 1993's slapsticky French mega-hit "Les Visiteurs."
Jean Reno and Christian Clavier reprise their roles from the original as Count Thibault of Malfete and his groveling servant-sidekick André, who are transported to modern times by a wizard's miscalculated spell.
How they have the dumb luck to materialize in a Chicago history museum where a Malfete descendent (Christina Applegate) is in charge of the 12th Century France exhibit isn't explained. In fact, the vast majority of the movie is dependent on the audience blindly accepting supremely stupid plot holes. But somehow director Jean-Marie Gaubert (also returning from the '93 version) manages to keep this fish-out-of-water stuff amusing, even though the film seems a little too pleased with its own self-aware cartoony-ness.
When Malfete and André awaken in the museum, they think they've gone to hell, what with all the cold marble walls, the masses of strangely dressed people, and the tiny, rattling room (that would be the elevator) that magically transports them to a subterranean lair (that would be the parking garage) full of strange dragons (they attack a Suzuki Samurai for charging them). When they step outside, things seem even worse. There's an empathetic, subjective scene of our heroes' senses being assaulted and overloaded by the sites and sounds of a modern city.
Malfete catches on surprisingly quickly to what's really going on and soon wants to return to his own time to rescue his love (also played by Applegate) from a fate that's too complicated to bother explaining. He spends the movie looking for the wizard (Malcolm McDowell), who followed him into the 21st Century to fix his mistake.
Meanwhile André -- despite being short, ugly and smelly -- catches the eye of Applegate's neighbor's bubbly babe gardener (huh?) played by Tara Reid. She encourages him to demand his freedom from his master -- and then they go shopping.
The movie is full of continuity errors and plot points set up in the early reels that were obviously edited out of the rest of the film. Oh, and let's not forget the lame Evil Fiancé subplot, in which Applegate's betrothed (Matthew Ross) is trying to dupe her out of her inheritance and run off with ice bimbo Brigette Wilson-Sampras.
Yet "Just Visiting" is pleasantly entertaining in an insignificant, dopey-fun kiddie flick kind of way. John Hughes (of "Home Alone" and Brat Pack fame) helped with the English draft of the script, and the movie is PG-13 "for violence and crude humor" -- but its mentality is definitely on a level for children -- or the French.
Unfortunately, the plot can only move forward predicated on the fact that every single character is an moron, making it impossible to fully enjoy because there's no way to stop second-guessing everyone's idiotic behavior.
I'm about to go off on a rant here, so keep in mind that I did have fun at this movie.
Why is the lowly servant who never bathes always nicely clean-shaven while his noble lord has a scruffy 5-day growth? How is it these 12th Century travelers are bright enough to quickly deduce they've leaped ahead 800 years but don't have the common sense to think maybe they should ask their modern benefactor about the magic box with people trapped inside before busting up her TV with their broadswords?
Why do the 21st Century characters consistently ignore the heroes' inappropriate behavior? Why would they take people with 12th Century manners to "the best restaurant in Chicago?" Why wouldn't the restaurant kick them out when André eats off the floor and they start tearing up the joint? Where does Malfete get his armor-clad wardrobe changes and why doesn't Applegate take him shopping? Why isn't he shocked by the revealing fashions? And where does the wizard get money to buy the hilariously loud cowboy get-up he wears once he gets to Chicago?
Why is the snobbish, money-grubbing fiancé the only person who behaves remotely like you or I would if faced with smelly, stupid, time traveling French interlopers? And why are we're supposed to hate him more for it?
Which reminds me, do we really need another supposedly bright, independent movie heroine who can't see through her transparently treacherous fiancé? Can we please have a moratorium on movies in which women almost marry the wrong guy?
OK. End of rant.
Now, I admit many of these questions are petty considering the kind of lowbrow, check-your-brain comedy we're talking about here. All I'm saying is that there's just no way to sit through the movie without these thoughts popping into your head. The cumulative effect is a significant drag on what is otherwise a pretty entertaining picture.
Run time: 88 mins
In Theaters: Friday 6th April 2001
Box Office USA: $4.0M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Production compaines: Gaumont, Hollywood Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 33%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 52
IMDB: 5.8 / 10
Director: Jean-Marie Gaubert
Starring: Jean Reno as Thibault, Christina Applegate as Rosalind / Julia, Christian Clavier as Andre, Matt Ross as Hunter (as Matthew Ross), Tara Reid as Angelique, Bridgette Wilson as Amber (as Bridgette Wilson-Sampras), John Aylward as Byron, Malcolm McDowell as Wizard, George Plimpton as Dr. Brady, Sarah Badel as Queen
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