JUST VISITING **
STARRING: Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Christina Applegate
DIRECTOR: Jean-Marie Gaubert
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
RATING: PG-13 for violence and crude humor
THE LOWDOWN: A wizard's bungled time-travel potion sends a 12th-century French nobleman and his servant to 21st-century Chicago
"J ust Visiting" is a noisy, slapstick collision of 12th-century sentiments and body odor with 21st-century yuppie greed and deodorizers.
Yes, the toilet is an amazing fountain in which to bathe. No, the deodorizer bar in the urinal is not an after-dinner mint.
We have John Hughes to blame for this goofball American translation of the 1993 French time-travel comedy blockbuster "Les Visiteurs." It comes complete with the same director (Jean-Marie Gaubert) and co-stars Jean Reno (familiar to Americans as a villain or the police inspector in "French Kiss") and Christian Clavier reprising their roles as a 12th-century nobleman and his doofus servant. ("Les Visiteurs" outdrew even "Jurassic Park" in France, but made nary a ripple stateside in its subtitled original.)
The original featured a nobleman transported accidentally to modern-day France; here, Hughes' rewrite has a wizard's bungled time-travel potion sending Count Thibault of Malfete and his loyal peasant Andre to 21st century Chicago where part of Thibault's castle is on display in a museum and where Thibault descendant Julia (Christina Applegate, of the former TV sitcom "Jesse") just happens to work as a curator.
While Thibault roams Chicago in his suit of armor seeking a wizard to return him to his time so he can rescue his fiancee (also played by Applegate), faithful servant Andre hangs around with a rich man's housemaid (Tara Reid, of "American Pie") who gives him some basic lessons in democracy.
The 12th-century scene at the beginning of the movie is a loud, dark, confusing mess, featuring clunky Tim Burton-esque special effects and peopled with a murderous duke and a hag or two. Modern-day Chicago isn't much of an improvement, featuring numbskull cops and bar patrons and the usual stock Disney-esque villains, Julia's appalling fiance (Matthew Ross) and his witchy girlfriend (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras).
The French adore Jerry Lewis, and it's easy to imagine Dean Martin in the Reno role throwing his steak bone to groveling sidekick Jerry Lewis in a bad wig. Fortunately, Reno, with his soulful eyes, homely face and courtly manner, has more appeal; Clavier, who initially is only grating, grows more palatable by the end. But this is truly a lumpy stew of after-school special, classic French comedy and Stooge slapstick. How many laughs can one hope to squeeze, after all, from Ye Olde Europeans encountering modern housewares in a yuppie kitchen?