Time warp leaves humor behind

Movie review

April 06, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

"Just Visiting" is what happens when you take the various components of a movie, throw them into a blender and turn it on.

You get a mess.

This painfully unhinged remake of the 1993 French comedy "Les Visiteurs" imprisons fine actors in a comedy that's pretty unfunny, with no sense of pacing, and no sense of plot or story development. In fact, there's little sense of anything but panic - particularly by the filmmakers, who apparently tried everything short of black magic to salvage this turkey.

Jean Reno, a great actor who may need a new agent, plays a 12th-century French nobleman, Count Thibault of Malfete, transported to 21st-century Chicago by a chronically miscalculating wizard (Malcolm McDowell, who must badly need work).

Accompanied by his servant Andre (co-screenwriter Christian Clavier), Thibault endures all manner of "hilarious" misadventures - you'll howl as he mistakes a toilet for a fountain - while trying to get home. Assisting him is his great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter, Julia Malfete (Christina Applegate, trying to get with the program, if only she could figure what it is), who conveniently works at the museum where our time travelers materialize.

"Just Visiting" oozes desperation from every pore. It seems to be over a year old, judging from a calendar that appears in one scene, and I suspect it has undergone considerable re-tooling. An entire subplot involving Las Vegas seems to have been discarded at the last minute. And the movie has no idea whether it wants to be a madcap farce, a modern morality play or an old-fashioned adventure.

Worse, the movie has no sense of logic. Maybe that's not a requisite in a kids' comedy about time-traveling knights, but would a little have hurt? Why, for instance, is Thibault smart enough to figure out the time travel thing almost instantly, but not smart enough to adapt to modern ways?

There are a few honest laughs, most supplied by Thibault's attempts to remain haughtily noble in the face of such weirdness, and Andre's unlikely relationship with a winningly oblivious Tara Reid as his 21st-century counterpart.

Legend has it the original film, which was put together by essentially the same creative team and also starred Reno and Clavier, was a huge hit in France. Go figure. Even a nation of Jerry Lewis fans must demand better than this.

Just Visiting'

Starring Jean Reno, Christina Applegate, Christian Clavier

Directed by Jean-Marie Gaubert

Released by Hollywood Pictures

Rated PG-13 (violence, crude humor)

Running time 88 minutes

Sun score *

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