- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001

"Just Visiting" has prompted an admirable bit of advertising copy: "Theyre not just from another time, theyre from France." Alas, the clever enhancements to this superfluous remake of a popular French farce of 1993 end right about there.
The prototype, "Les Visiteurs," was imported, but only a handful of art-house patrons may have caught the news.
A rollocking, diverting novelty, it is a time-travel farce in which a 12th-century knight and his servant are transported to the present, where they weather severe culture shock and misapprehension.
The knight, Thibault, played by Jean Reno, encounters a charming descendant and manages to return to his medieval stomping grounds, thereby protecting the modern heroines birthright.
In short, some agreeable variations on "Back to the Future" underpin the exaggerated time-warp gags invented to convulse the audience.
French moviegoers were convulsed to record-breaking box-office magnitude. Mr. Reno and co-star Christian Clavier, who also collaborated on the screenplay, reunited with director Jean-Marie Gaubert for a popular sequel in 1998.
Instead of that, we get "Just Visiting," an English-language reprise that substitutes contemporary Chicago for the modern French locales.
Evidently, the French filmmakers were talked into one visit too many by John Hughes, adept at contemporary domestic farce in an idiom of his own but a very defective judge of remake projects.
Mr. Hughes also sold Hollywood on the bad ideas of remaking "Miracle on 34th Street" and "101 Dalmatians."
Perhaps the thought of Jean Reno in medieval drag on the streets of Chicago, even pretending to guide a horse into an elevated commuter train, was just irresistible to a hometown boy.
From the outside, these antics look stale and laborious. Common sense suggests that the French collaborators may have emptied the well of hilarious ideas for Thibault and his groveling sidekick, Andre.
There is one somewhat surprising grace note between the set pieces in which Mr. Reno and Mr. Clavier wreck kitchens, bathrooms and restaurants or slay an automobile presumed to be a dragon.
I allude to Christina Applegate as the infinitely patient and accommodating heroine, Julia Malfete, a museum curator and hereditary heiress who agrees to shelter the unruly visitors.
Shes more endearing company than lovelorn Ashley Judd in the unflattering "Someone Like You" or gauche Renee Zellweger in the approaching "Bridget Joness Diary."
Maturing into a piquant facial blend of Lili Taylor and Shirley MacLaine, Miss Applegate seems to transcend the vulgarities of her teen-age tenure as the daughter on "Married With Children" and embody a civilized sweetness and generosity that refuse to be diminished by any of the promiscuous slapstick abuse dished out in "Just Visiting."
Among other indignities, Julia is a splatter target in her own kitchen and gets stuck with a treacherous fiance. No matter. Miss Applegate can take numerous lickings and still emerge as a doll.

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