Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.

JUST VISITING (2001)

Just Visiting is a remake of an irritating French film and Jean Reno is in it and I can’t take this any more, these movies are just awful.

THE STORY:
The plot is almost entirely identical to Les visiteurs, so as far as I’m concerned, if they get to do the same jokes again, so do I.

A behind-the-scenes snapshot of Reno and Clavier checking the script.

Yup, a knight and his manservant (still Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, but now their names are Thibault and Andre) are thrust into modern times by a faulty potion that was supposed to send the knight back in time to stop himself from committing a murder while hopped up on a mystical hallucinogenic poison. They run around not understanding cars and shit until the movie is over. Whoopdy fuck. Now allow me to show you all the ways this English-language remake managed to improve upon the original.

Oh, hello…

Well, what’s your name, friend?

Oh, that’s very nice…

Hey, is it cool if I take it out…? No?

Aaaaand done.

Who is this random desktop model? She’s the secretary of the fiancé of the woman that takes in Thibault and Andre after she mistakes one of them for a missing relative. And she’s totally fucking that fiancé! Before you call out this scandalous plot revision as being wholly unnecessary (aside from exploring the universal theme of “boobs”), please note that she proceeds to fall off the table, because comedy.

You had, like, four more feet of table, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras!

Why am I so hung up on this boobs? I mean, scene? Because making the fiancé (Matt Ross) a cheater is what drives Julia (Christina Applegate) into the arms of Thibault. Yes, American movies are so desperate to cram in a love story that they took the slappiest of European slapstick comedies and decided the chicks wouldn’t go for it unless they made a woman fall for her own time-displaced relative.

Complete with a date montage that includes urban sword training, I WISH I WAS KIDDING.

Now, there was a vaguely incest-y vibe in the original film, but it was limited to just one or two lines and played for comedy. Here, it’s Julia’s entire character arc. Her fiancé acts like a shithead, Thibault says something empowering about what a bold, beautiful woman she is, and then Julia makes an o-face.

This expression goes way beyond “reassuring pep talk from an uncle.”

THE ACTING:
More shouting from Reno and Clavier.

“We’re really still doing these movies?!”

Honestly, though, you can tell their hearts aren’t in it. They look tired. Partially because the slapstick has been toned down for American audiences (a decision I’m amazed to be declaring a disappointment), and partially because the repeated gags have such a “here we go again” feel to them.

“Yeah. We wrecked stuff. We do that. Whatever. What are cell phones? Ahhh.”

When she’s not getting squishy in the nethers over her great³²-grandfather, Christina Applegate is your standard, relatable, business-oriented, hopelessly romantic, independent, pretty-but-not-too-pretty, cappuccino, Hootie and the Blowfish, will Ross and Rachel ever get together… huh, I forgot how this sentence started.

She’s just like me!

Speaking of stock characters, Matt Ross sweeps the Douche Awards as the dirty cheatin’ man who just ain’t right for Julia.

Movie douching is a thankless job. Godspeed, Mr. Ross.

The homeless woman that the peasant falls in love with in the original is now simply “quirky” and played by an actual homeless woman.

Rimshot me, motherfucker.

And now, the saddest role. I’m already heartbroken to see Jean Reno in this bullshit, but get a load of Malcolm McDowell… as the wizard… who follows the visitors to the future… and discovers he quite enjoys this “rap” music.

He noncommittally wiggles his butt for a second and the editor cuts away out of pure respect.

THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
Okay, if you’ve read about the special effects in the other two movies, you’re waiting with rapt attention: does time travel turn the peasant into a literal pile of shit?

Nope. A head with legs. Then water.

The knight now turns into a statue, then crumbles into dust.

Again I ask, why is it different for everyone?

Oh, and because weird CGI is apparently a hallmark of this franchise, here’s a guy with a vegetable head.

Little known fact: the Salad King is infinitely creepier than the Burger King.

OTHER STUFF:

  • This movie tries to get away with a “Macarena” joke in the year 2001.
  • Speaking of weird music choices, they also try, without a hint of irony, to heartwarmingly end the movie on Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” as though Groundhog Day didn’t definitely retire that song from movies forever.

THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Oh, fuck, actually, I was blasting through the rest of the article until I remembered that this part was legitimately interesting. While the other two movies don’t focus on the time travel rules whatsoever, I was amazed that this movie, however briefly, did. So Thibault murdered Rosalind, his bride-to-be, under the influence of dark magicks, but she is also played by Christina Applegate because movies are stupid. When the wizard arrives in modern times and meets the similarly Applegate-faced Julia, he thinks it’s Rosalind. When Thibault explains that she’s Rosalind’s descendant, the wizard’s response seems to suggest an attempt to comprehend the rules…

“She’s a descendant! A-ha! All is not lost, my lord!

FINAL THOUGHTS:
I would rather watch Kate & Fucking Leopold. And I wouldn’t see the upcoming Les visiteurs 3: La révolution for all the croissants in Paris.

And I love croissants.

NEXT WEEK:
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949), Unidentified Flying Oddball (1979), A Kid in King Arthur’s Court (1995)

Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.