Just Visiting

Two main types of French comedy make it over here. The first is the sophisticated farce, where one thing compounds upon another, and the comedy builds up over the length of the film. The second is the stupid slapstick comedy that European and Asian audiences cannot get enough of, yet American audiences ignore them. Perhaps it is because domestically, the stupid humor here avoids the slapstick in preference of the gutter. In any case, Just Visiting falls into the latter category. In fact, Just Visiting is a remake of a hugely successful French film entitled Les Visiteurs, released here in 1993 as The Visitors. American audiences ignored it then, and there is no indication that it will change the second time around. So why remake the film in the first place? Nobody knows. Just Visiting has the same director, writers, and stars as its French counterpart, and is probably just as low in quality as the original.

This is a prime example of a fish-out-of-water movie, where the two fish are from 12th century France. Count Thibault of Malfete (Jean Reno, Tripwire, Ronin) and his servant Andre (Christian Clavier, The Corridors of Time, Dead Tired) find themselves in 21st century Chicago when an English wizard (Malcolm McDowell, My Life So Far, Dorian) mistakenly transports there. They were trying to go back in time to save Thibault from drinking a potion and killing his betrothed, Rosalind. In Chicago, they meet with Julia Malfete (Christina Applegate, The Giving Tree, The Sweetest Thing, also playing Rosalind), Thibault's descendent. Julia's fiance Hunter (Matt Ross, Company Man, Wonder Boys) wants to sell the remaining Thibault estate and make off with the money without Julia's knowledge. Thibault and Andre set out to find a wizard to get them back to their own time.

Just Visiting is not as bad as it can be. There are a couple amusing moment, but most of the jokes fall flat. Okay, the two Frenchmen have no idea what a toilet is, so they drink from it. They think a car is a dragon and that small people are in a television. Nothing really new, and nothing really funny. The continual stream of reactions to modern appliances and objects becomes tiring quickly. Andre is a servant, so he cannot eat at a table but must eat on the floor. It just goes on and on. Original screenwriters Jean-Marie Poire (who also directed) and Clavier with the help of John Hughes (Beethoven's 3rd, Reach the Rock) move the story from France to America. The worst part of the plot has Julia and Hunter thinking that Thibault is her drowned cousin. They assume that his strange behavior is because he is foreign, ignoring the fact that his behavior is too strange for anybody.

This just makes Julia and Hunter seem like complete idiots. There is a point at which it would be funny to watch Thibault and Andre try to survive in the modern world, but Just Visiting crosses the line by throwing out common sense. Even worse, when the Wizard shows up in Chicago, he seems able to adjust well, somehow finding money, jeans, and all the things he needs to make potions. The one nice story element is a subplot involving Andre and Angelique (Tara Reid, Dr. T and the Women, Josie and the Pussycats), the neighbor's gardener. Andre feels Angelique a kindred spirit, since they both are 'servants.' Angelique is a free spirit, and finds Andre's quirks endearing. She wants to help free himself of Thibault and to modernize his ways. This is a completely transparent storyline, but still manages to have a little heart.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 28 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence and crude humor.

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