Just Visiting

"Thank you, master!"

I’m honestly baffled by Hollywood’s compulsion to recycle French comedies. If you want to bring them over, subtitle them or dub them for the illiterate. The results of the remakes are mixed at best, and there’s always a weird, clumsy feel to them. Just Visiting, an Americanization of Les Visiteurs isn’t as bad as Jungle2Jungle or as good as Father’s Day but somewhere in between, leaning towards the former. It confuses utter chaos with comedy and prosaic moralizing with an actual message. The story seems picked out of a hat and the script written by a computer.

Count Thibault “Timo” II (Jean Reno) is engaged to the fair Rosalind (Christina Applegate). But when something goes terribly wrong at their wedding party, Timo and his faithful servant Andre (Christian Clavier) are forced to enlist the help of a wizard to transport them back in time to the moment right before the accident so that they can reverse what transpired. Unfortunately, this particular wizard isn’t very fastidious, and instead of taking them back a few hours, he takes them forward seven centuries. Yes, they are now in the year 2000, conveniently making their first appearance at a museum exhibit from the 13th Century.

No sooner do they appear in the present than they start wreaking havoc. They attack an SUV with their swords, thinking that “It’s a dragon! It’s a red dragon!” They meet Julia, one of the museum’s curators, also played by Applegate, who happens to be Rosalind’s heir. She doesn’t know this, of course, so she is surprised when Timo talks to her as if she was his lover. Actually, she is engaged to Hunter (Matt Ross) who, as these plots dictate, must be a snobby, money-hungry, obnoxious jerk who is merely after Julia’s inheritance. Thinking that Timo is her long-lost uncle, Julia puts up with his eccentricities and lets the two of them move into their house, despite Hunter’s fervent objections.

While chaos can be very funny if done right, it is not synonymous with comedy. You cannot simply put your protagonists on screen, tell them to start pratfalling and throwing things and expect the result to be funny. I very much enjoy slapstick comedy but there must be thought behind it, of which Just Visiting has not a trace. You’d think that after Timo and Andre destroyed their kitchen, Julia and her beau wouldn’t take them to an upscale restaurant.

Fortunately, moments of inanity are somewhat balanced by scenes of unexpected cleverness (most of which do not involve slapstick). Perhaps the most brilliant has Timo and Andre taking their very first ride in an automobile, which winds up on the highway at 20 miles per hour as our two visitors shout “Slower! Slower!” There aren’t nearly enough of these.

Jean Reno, who likes to play tough guys in movies like Godzilla and Ronin, seems to be having a good time here, though sidekick Christian Clavier proves to be an entirely obnoxious comedian, a kind of less stoned Pauly Shore, though not much more talented. Watching Applegate, I couldn’t stop thinking of her role on Married… With Children, and the obligatory lessons she had to learn detracted not only from her performance but from the rest of the comedy as well.

Just Visiting is far from intolerable, and, as these things go, it’s probably not even “bad”. But there doesn’t seem to have been any talent behind it, any thought, any care. Most good movies give a feeling that they were constructed lovingly, with pride, by the hundreds of people responsible for it. Just Visiting seems like the work of a crudely efficient assembly line.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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