Just Visiting (PG)
HOT on the heels of Vanilla Sky comes another US remake of a European hit. Just Visiting is a gag-for-gag rehash of the 1993 French smash Les Visiteurs, with comic heroes Jean Reno and Christian Clavier returning as the 12th century knight and servant catapulted through time and landing in 21st century Chicago.
Reno is Le Comte de Thibault de Malfete, a dashing warrior who spends his time righting wrongs and defending the weak. With him travels Andre le Pate (Clavier, dubbed ‘the French Jim Carrey’), a grubby, smelly, doormat of a serf who worships his master like a particularly mangy mongrel.
Engaged to be married to Princess Rosalind, Thibault reckons without the scheming Warwick, an English nobleman who hires a witch to poison Rosalind’s cup; when she drinks the potion it will make her see Thibault as a monster and, in horror, she will kill him.
Of course it all goes awry and it is Thibault who drinks the affected wine, sees an array of ghastly images before him not least Rosalind, who he kills with one thrust of his sword.
Consumed with grief he orders a wizard (Malcolm McDowell obviously needing a job) to turn back time, only he forgets a vital ingredient and sends our hapless heroes plummeting into the next Millennium…
Just Visiting reunites not just Reno and Clavier (the latter also serving as co-writer and associate producer) but also original director Jean-Marie Gaubert and producer Patrice Ledoux. With the original team on board, it has to be on a par with its predecessor, right?
Well, not exactly. While the double-act of Reno and Clavier is as good as ever – a Gallic Laurel and Hardy with Reno essaying the arrogance and pomposity of Hardy and Clavier perfectly at home as the snivelling, ‘I-know-my-place’ peasant in the mode of Stan Laurel it is the American elements which appear noticeably out of place.
Christina Applegate plays both Rosalind and her Chicago doppelganger Julia with all the poise she can muster, serving as an extremely effective foil to Clavier’s pratfalls (he’s like Baldrick on speed) and Reno’s deadpan airs and graces.
Tara Reid, as Clavier’s beloved and Matthew Ross as Julia’s grasping, philandering beau, fare less well. Both have underwritten roles and are there purely as (rather obvious) support to the Frenchmen’s antics.
When the jokes work, however, they bring a ready smile. A lengthy restaurant sequence (reminiscent of the scene in Crocodile Dundee) sees Reno flinging half-chewed steaks to his grovelling servant, sitting on the floor in a corner, as Chicago’s great and good look on in silent horror.
And a setpiece in Julia’s home allows Reno and Clavier to demolish the kitchen and drink from the toilet bowl as they slowly get to grips with life 1,000 years in the future. Clavier, particularly, appears to be attempting to imitate Gerard Depardieu.
Yet, hard work aside, Just Visiting is yet another example (as if more were needed) that Trans-Atlantic remakes of European movies do not work as well and are not needed. Kids, however, will love it.