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Just Visiting

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Just Visiting

Starring: Christina Applegate, Jean Reno
Director: Jean-Marie Applegate
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: April 2001
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Tara Reid, Bridgette Wilson, Ric Sarabia, Malcolm McDowell, Christian Clavier

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Who do you think would fare better...a 21st Century New York City resident suddenly transported 800 years into the future, or a 12th Century European conveyed about the same number of years into today's Chicago? This question might conceivably pop into the minds of the audience for "Just Visiting," and in fact is probably the only thought that would stimulate the brain in a movie which, despite good intentions and a couple of superior performances, is overwrought with pratfalls and dated slapstick humor. We can only guess what this country would be like in the year 2801, but since modern time travelers presumably know how to read and have kept up on books like Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock," they might be in awe of what they see but would not react to the culture as do the folks in Jean-Marie Gaubert's film.

A re-make of Jean-Marie Poire's 1993 French blockbuster, "The Visitors"--which broke all sorts of records in its home country--"Just Visiting" introduces Americans allergic to foreign films with English subtitles to the broadly comic tale of a reluctant tourist who agrees to swallow a wizard's potion in order to keep his head on straight after killing his intended bride, Rosalind, while under the influence of a sorcerer's LSD-like concoction.

Jean Reno and Christian Clavier relive the roles that charmed the French eight years ago, this time speaking a perfectly good English with a delightful Gallic accent. Reno, introduced to a broad cross-section of American moviegoers in the action-adventure thriller "Ronin," shows his mettle (so to speak) as a knight in shining armor, specifically the Count Thibault, who drags around a wide-eyed, Sancho-Panza-like servant Andre (Christian Clavier--who co-write the script to both this version and the original French interpretation). About to wed the fair Rosalind (Christina Applegate), he becomes the victim of a plot by an envious earl who is himself seeking Rosalind's hand. Having stabbed his fiance to death while under the influence of this villain, Thibault escapes the executioner by swallowing a flawed potion administered to him by a wizard (Matthew McDowell) and together with his paunchy servant lands in a Chicago museum where he springs to contemporary life. By a pleasant coincidence, he meets up with Julia (Christina Applegate in her modern guise) who he believes is his bride only to realize after much coaching that she is his descendant thirty generations removed. Eager to get back to his own time--since failing that, Julia would never have been born--he sprints and travels up and down Michigan Avenue and environs by foot and on horseback seemingly unencumbered by his iron getup and immense sword. The one-joke film is essentially a series of skits based on his misadventures in the magic land that would draw millions of others from his home continent to its shores. By the conclusion of the story, Thibault learns the meaning of humility, his servant Andre the essence of freedom--while these medieval wayfarers ironically teach the lovely Julia, bullied by her browbeating boyfriend Hunter (Matthew Ross), the meaning of women's liberation.

"Just Visiting" appears targeted to a youthful audience, given its predilection for pratfalls and fondness for faux pas. During the course of the journey, Thibault and Andre trash the most formal restaurant in Chicago where Andre consumes chicken a la umbrella, eat "mints" used to deodorize a urinal, use a $2,000 bottle of Chanel #5 as bath oil and generally proves that the last thing most modern women would want is a knight in shining armor...most women, that is, but not the newly emancipated Julia or her gardener neighbor Amber (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras), who develops a crush on the peasant. The pratfalls become repetitious, but Christina Applegate surprises as a performer who has retained the good looks that charmed admirers of the ribald and usually hilarious TV series, "Married...with Children." Happily, with just eighty-eight minutes to gross us out, these visitors do not overstay their welcome.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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