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A knight and his valet are plagued by a witch, and to repair the damage, they make use of the services of a wizard. However, something goes wrong and they are transported from the twelfth century to the year 2000. There, the knight meets some of his family, and slowly learns what this new century is like. However, he still needs to get back to the twelfth century to deal with the witch, so he starts looking for a wizard. Written by
Maarten Hofman <email@example.com>
This "What If" Comedy Is Good For Some Real Laughs
Magic, as well as evil, is afoot in 12th Century France, and when the two are combined to effect the sinister scheme of an unscrupulous individual the result is a comedic journey for a Nobleman and his lackey as they are transported into the 21st Century in `Just Visiting,' directed by Jean-Marie Poire, and starring Jean Reno and Christina Applegate. Count Thibault (Reno) is about to marry Princess Rosalind (Applegate), daughter of King Henry (Richard Bremmer) and his Queen (Sarah Badel), but at a prenuptial banquet the Earl of Warwick (Robert Glenister), who covets the fair Rosalind, coerces a witch (Valerie Griffiths) into casting a spell that will enable him to usurp Thibault and make Rosalind his own. The plan goes gravely awry, however, and Thibault subsequently engages the talents of an English Wizard (Malcolm McDowell) to set things aright. But the Wizard proceeds to muck it up even worse, sending Thibault and his slave, Andre le Pate (Christian Clavier), into a `Tunnel of time' from which they ultimately emerge in Chicago, 2001, where they encounter Julia Malfete (also Applegate), the spitting image of Rosalind, who turns out to be a direct descendant of Thibault. And it becomes the task of the Nobleman, Thibault, to find a way back to his own time. In the meantime, he and Andre attempt to negotiate this world of the future with a Medieval mind-set that puts them at odds with the inanimate objects and humans that surround them. And it becomes a trial by fire for the brave Count, and a laugh riot of uproarious proportions for the audience.
This stranger-in-a-strange-land, fish-out-of-water scenario has been done before, to be sure, but it's given a fresh face here compliments of Poire, who sets a good pace and keeps the story on track, and the talents and impeccable comedic timing of his cast, especially Clavier and Reno, who play so well off of one another. Much of what transpires is predictable-- the way Thibault and Andre react to a modern city replete with technology, and specifically things like automobiles, light switches and television-- but they always manage to take it one step further, which makes the humor spontaneous and genuinely funny.
Reno is perfect as Thibault, playing it straight and allowing the humor to naturally evolve from the character's reaction to a situation rather than going for the purely physical humor. Reno, in fact, demonstrates a real talent for acting through reacting, which makes his character believable and adds to the humor of the film. He never allows Thibault to lose that 12th Century logic, willing to attest to his own nobility, for example, to anyone who will listen, and backing it up with a verbal inventory of his assets, which includes things like fifty barrels of olives and, of course, Andre. It's not a performance that requires a lot of depth, but for the film to work it had to be done right, and with precision, and Reno succeeds admirably on both counts.
Clavier, on the other hand, goes straight for the jugular with an all-out assault of slapstick and physical humor that takes it right to the edge and works perfectly in effecting what was intended: He makes you laugh out loud. Reminiscent of a cross between Peter Sellers' Clouseau-- though not as subtle-- and the best of Monty Python, Clavier creates a memorable character, who as the `property' of Thibault gives a real perspective and context to the humor of the story. Some of his `discoveries' of the modern world will have you rolling on the floor. And again, the fact that he plays the character straight and not just `for' laughs adds significantly to the overall humor of the film.
Christina Applegate provides a welcome presence as Rosalind/Julia, and while not a stretch for her as an actor, by any means, she lends a quality to the film that could be easily overlooked, but would be quite apparent as a missing element without her. She has a natural, charismatic manner that makes her endearing and sympathetic, and it's a good, solid performance through which she creates a credible, well rounded character.
The supporting cast includes Matt Ross (Hunter), Tara Reid (Angelique), Bridgette Wilson (Amber), John Aylward (Byron), George Plimpton (Dr. Brady), Bill Bailey (Thibault's Father) and Clare Welch (Thibault's Mother). A comedy that successfully blends the fine art of comedic subtlety with physical gags, `Just Visiting' is everything a comedy should be: Funny and entertaining. And it does it without venturing into over-the-top Farrelly Brothers territory or by employing the abstract brand of hilarity often offered by the Coen Brothers. It's a film that succeeds on it's own merits, and does it splendidly. It's a funny one you don't want to miss, and that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 8/10.
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