Just Visiting Review

Jun 01, 2001 | 6:32am EDT

After being drugged by a rival earl French nobleman Count Thibault (Jean Reno) murders his bride-to-be Rosalind Malfete (Christina Applegate) on the eve of their impending nuptials. While awaiting his execution Thibault sends his servant André (Christian Clavier) to fetch a wizard (Malcolm McDowell) who can send Thibault back in time so he can undo the night's tragic events. The spell backfires and sends Thibault and his sidekick into the future instead of the past straight into a Chicago museum's exhibit of medieval artifacts in the year 2000. Thibault soon realizes that the exhibit's curator Julia Malfete (Applegate again) is his descendant 30 generations removed after semi-convincing her of this he enlists her help in finding the wizard who can send him back to the 12th century to save their lineage. Meanwhile Julia's unfaithful money-grubbing husband Hunter (Matthew Ross) throws a wrench in their plans and tries to have Thibault arrested for false impersonation in order to hold onto the Malfete family fortune Julia stands to inherit. Though the plot is riddled with holes the story line takes full advantage of the 12th-century-meets-21st-century jokes and pranks including the visitors' fascinations with modern day transportation electricity toilets and urinals all guaranteeing good laughs. Reno and Clavier reprise their roles in this American adaptation of the 1993 French blockbuster Les Visiteurs. Reno brings both warmth and wit to Thibault's character and carries the film from beginning to end. Tough chivalrous and charming he evokes the legendary knight in shining armor. Though Clavier who plays his subservient sidekick and brunt of all jokes elicits a few chuckles with his slip-and-fall physical comedy he also demonstrates a tender side when he pleads with Thibault for his freedom. Applegate puts on a believable British accent as Rosalind in 12th-century England but fares much better as Julia in 21st-century Chicago. McDowell in the role of the blundering wizard shows that his strength may lie more in the villainous than the comedic: his character is never really developed leaving his portrayal one dimensional and stereotypical at best. Not much can be said for the performances of Ross and Bridgette Wilson-Sampras either. Ross' character is your run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter bad guy with no morals while Wilson-Sampras overplays the made-up preening secretary. The beginning of the film which is set in 12th-century England is done surprisingly well from the costumes down to the cinematography; unfortunately this seems to be where the bulk of the budget was spent. The modern day portion of the film is sadly lacking especially when juxtaposed against the cold dark and realistically gloomy feel of the first half. The special effects during the latter portion of the film seem almost cartoonish and diminish the overall look of the film. While Just Visiting retains the principal players of its French counterpart including writer Jean-Marie Poire and director Jean-Marie Gaubert don't expect this film to achieve a fraction of the success it had on the other side of the Atlantic. Yet it provides good laughs from start to finish and the best moments astonishingly enough were not limited to the ones shown in the film's trailer.

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