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Just Visiting (PG-13)
Touchstone Pictures
Director: Jean-Marie Poiré
Producers: Patrice Ledoux, Ricardo Mestres
Written By: Christian Clavier, Jean-Marie Poiré, John Hughes
Cast: Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Christina Applegate, Malcolm McDowell, Tara Reid, Matthew Ross, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras

Rating: out of 5

JUST VISITING is the English language remake of the 1993 French film LES VISITEURS. This is another in Hollywood’s long history of remaking popular European films, notable examples of which are THREE MEN AND A BABY (TROIS HOMMES ET UN COUFFIN ), COUSINS (COUSIN, COUSINE), THE BIRDCAGE (LA CAGE AUX FOLLES), and DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS (BOUDU SAUVÉ DES EAUX).

The first reason that comes to mind for this phenomenon is a lack of good, original story ideas. But why not distribute and promote the original instead of incurring the costs of producing another movie? Because even if the English-language version is only half as good, it will still make more money in the U.S. market than the European version ever would. The sad truth is, there’s still a prejudice against foreign films in the U.S. “Too artsy.”.“Don’t get their humor.”.“Subtitles are a pain.” And the U.S. movie industry, which is a business after all, responds to what its customers tell it.

One may point to the success of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON as proof that this is changing. But I bet most of you can count the number of screens available for showing foreign films in your city on the fingers of one hand. (And remember, you will find these screens at “art houses,” not movie theaters.)

Touchstone probably figured it had another sure thing with JUST VISITING. The original version LES VISITEURS is France’s most successful comedy; it even inspired a sequel in 1998. To their credit, the producers retained many of the original crew that contributed to the success of the original. JUST VISITING is directed by the director of the original, Jean-Marie Poiré (under the pseudonym, Jean-Marie Gaubert), and features the original French stars: Jean Reno and Christian Clavier.

Not having seen the original, I can’t say how much of the story remained intact (especially with John Hughes as co-writer), but I could easily see how LES VISITEURS did as well as it did. The premise is simple: A French knight from the 11th century (Reno) and his squire (Clavier) are accidentally transported to present-day America where he meets one of his descendants (Applegate, who also plays the knight’s 11th century betrothed). Throw in a no-good boyfriend (Ross), a wizard (McDowell), and a pretty emancipator of squires (Reid), and you have all the ingredients for a broad comedy filled with slapstick and fish-out-of-water humor, as well as lessons about old-fashioned values such as chivalry and modern values such as independence.

Unlike the remakes mentioned earlier, there are no “bankable” American stars in this one (although Christina Applegate is surprisingly charming). Christian Clavier (who co-wrote both the original and the remake) is a box-office force in Europe, as big a star in France as a Jim Carrey, but of course he is virtually unknown in the U.S. I also have read online that the preview trailers for this movie were terrible. However, judging from the hearty laughter of the audience, the humor of LES VISITEURS has been successfully translated for American audiences, and there is no reason you shouldn’t go out and see this very entertaining movie. But if you get a chance, do rent the original French version as well.

—Sandhya Shardanand

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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