Just Visiting
Dir: Jean-Marie Poiré
Star: Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Christina Applegate
Cert / Year: PG - PG13 / 2001
Format: DVD R1

Count Thibault Malfete (Jean Reno) is a twelfth century knight who his about to marry his true love, Princess Rosalind (Christina Applegate). Unfortunately due to a witches curse he ends up killing her. To fix matters he enlists the help of a rather incompetent wizard who accidentally transports both himself and his servant André (Christian Clavier) to modern day Chicago. Here they meet their descendants, and suffer from major culture shock. Can they survive the future to fix the past? It's definitely a case of they came, they saw, they want to go back.

This is an American remake of the great French comedy film Les Visiteurs. This pleasant comedy was a big hit internationally (especially for a French Language film) in 1993. A sequel followed it in 1998 that was somewhat less well received. Both of these films were written stared and directed by the same people, so it was good news when they signed up for this remake. However this is not just a straight remake of the original. There has been some changes, and not all of these have been for the better.

You may ask why remake a film in the first place. Well in this case the answer is fairly obvious, and that is the original wasn't in English. This fact should not have been a problem but there are those (especially in America I believe) that will not watch dubbed or subtitled movies. This attitude quite baffles me, but it's their choice. It does mean though that a number of excellent foreign movies do not get the exposure that they deserve. It also means that sooner or later Hollywood will have a crack at remaking them. This would be fine if they were as good quality as the originals, but do far none have been. Look no further than The Assassin a poor remake of Nikita, or Diabolique the American remake of Les Diabolique. It seems to be a sad fact that the Americanisation of the films destroys the very reasons that made them good in the first place. Unfortunately Just Visiting goes no way in redressing this problem, rather it totally reinforces it.

This time the problem is not with the main cast as both of the original stars, the excellent Jean Reno and Christian Clavier are present in the new version. It's not the supporting cast as Christina Applegate is excellent, and Matt Ross is acceptable as the bad guy boyfriend. Ok so there is one problem on the casting front and its Tara Reid who is woefully miscast as André's love interest. She just isn't ugly or weird enough (this is a common failing in American productions as they seem to find casting anyone who isn't pretty abhorrent). No the main problem with the film is the setting.

The original was film was set in medieval France and the present day scenes in the same locations but in the modern day. This remake has the past scenes set in medieval England but the present day scenes are set in Chicago. Why? I can only assume it is for some inexplicably xenophobic assumption made of American audiences. However this setting change has ruined much of the original story and a lot of the humour. The original centred on the estates of count and the fact that his descendants had sold it on the descendants of his servant. This led to a brilliant dual role for Christian Clavier and a lot of mistaken identity, class divide humour. Of course setting the modern scenes in American (a place not known for its medieval history) all of this clever humour is completely lost. What is left is a mildly amusing (it could not be described as funny for the most part) fish out of water comedy. Which when compared to the original is a like a Styrofoam McDonalds cup compared to antique silver goblet.

Is it all doom and gloom then? For the most part yes. The effects are pretty good in a CGI sort of way, which is a big improvement on the original. The wizard played by Malcolm McDowell is scene stealingly amusing. The jokes from the original like the scene where the Count is introduced to living in a modern house, and the restaurant scene are pretty good (although I still think the original did it better, but that's maybe because I saw it first). Apart from that there is not a lot else to recommend it.

Hollywood please note do not try and remake any more French classics (Jean de Florette becomes The Florist starring Tom Hanks a heart warming comedy about a Detroit flower salesman. No thanks!). As for this, all I can recommend is that you give the original a try. Les Visiteurs is a hundred times better movie than this. They came, they saw, they should have stayed in France.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Clean (so it shows up the limitations of the CGI)
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Godd but uninloving
Features Making of featurette
Verdict The usual good picture and sound, but few extras. However in this case do we care?

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home