Just Visiting (2001)
Directed by Jean-Marie Poire
Cast: Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Christina Applegate, Tara Reid, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Malcolm McDowell, Matt Ross.
2001 88 minutes
Rated: (for mild profanity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 7, 2001.
In its native France, 1993's time travel comedy, "Les Visiteurs," became a breakout hit that ended up outgrossing "Jurassic Park" in that respective year. When it was finally released in the United States, it flopped, but Hollywood's viewpoint was that all it needed was an American remake for it to become a financial success. In a rare move, the original's director, Jean-Marie Poire, and main stars, Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, have reunited for "Just Visiting," which is cursorily enjoyable, but almost instantly forgettable.
In a prologue set in 12th-century England, the honorable Count Thibault (Jean Reno) is preparing to marry his beloved Rosalind (Christina Applegate). When he becomes victim to witchcraft and ends up accidentally killing his fair love, he seeks out the help of a wizard (Malcolm McDowell) to cast a spell on him and his goofily faithful servant, Andre (Christian Clavier), to send them back in time to the moment preceding Rosalind's untimely death.
The spell goes awry, however, and Count Thibault and Andre end up awaking in Chicago, circa 2000. In an entirely different place and time than they have ever known, they are both mystified and frightened of the inventions and way of life in the modern world, standing as two fish helplessly out of water. Almost immediately after landing in the present day, they have a chance meet with Julia Malfete (Applegate, in a dual role), a great-great-great-great-great descendant of Rosalind, who takes them in and helps them in finding a way back home.
With a screenplay by Jean-Marie Poire, Christian Clavier, and John Hughes, "Just Visiting" takes its time in setting up the premise, but finds much physical comedy once things get going. The movie is very funny some of the time, and occasionally clever, but is so slight that it offers nothing worthwhile outside of a few laughs. The featherweight plot lacks an urgency that fails to ever involve the viewer in the goings-on, and with the end credits comes a feeling of time that could have certainly been more well-spent.
Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, as Count Thibault and Andre, expertly play two 12th-century men humorously floundering in the 21st-century, and no wonder--they played the same exact roles in "Les Visiteurs," unseen by myself. Their characters never feel like anything other than pawns, though, so it is difficult to invest any interest on their returning to England and setting things right.
The American actors who surround them are all rising young actors whose involvement in such a minor, wasteful effort boggles the mind. Christina Applegate (1998's "The Big Hit"), as both Rosalind and Julia, is a bright actress whom I've admired ever since her days on TV's "Married...with Children," and she is very good here, trying to keep a straight face amidst the insanity that is brought with two men from medieval times transplanted in the year 2000. Matt Ross (2000's "American Psycho"), as Julia's slimy fiancee; Bridgette Wilson-Sampras (2001's "The Wedding Planner"), as his mistress; and Tara Reid (2000's "Dr. T and the Women"), as a free spirit who catches the eye of Andre, have one-dimensional supporting roles.
As a movie that just happens to be playing on cable late one night, "Just Visiting" might be a harmless way to spend an hour-and-a-half before heading to sleep. As a theatrical release, its aspirations are hopeless, and its chance of financial success is about as promising as "Battlefield Earth 2." Hollywood Pictures would have been best off had they just left well-enough alone.
©2001 by Dustin Putman