A Frenchman-out-of-water comedy. Jean Reno and Christian Clavier reprise their roles from the 1993 medieval time-travel tale LES VISITEURS, one of France's highest-grossing homegrown films — in both senses of the term "gross." A cheerfully vulgar, slapstick adventure with farcically intricate plot machinations, the original fared less-than-spectacularly in the U.S., making the reasons behind this English-language redux all the more confounding.
In 12th-century England, transplanted French knight Thibault (Reno) is to marry Lady Rosalind (the talented Christina Applegate, looking almost shockingly thin). But an evil earl wants Rosalind for himself, and when a bewitched potion he's ordered winds up in the wrong hands, Rosalind is killed by a hallucinating Thibault. Thibault's servant, André (co-writer and French comedic star Clavier), saves his master from execution with help from a wizard (Malcolm McDowell), who intends to send Thibault back in time so the knight can undo the tragedy. Unfortunately, he's no Merlin: Knight and serf wind up in 21st-century Chicago (in the original film, they logically remain in the same physical place), where Thibault's descendent Julia (Applegate again) is preparing to sell the family holdings. Or rather, her slimy fiancé Hunter (Matt Ross) is, so he can steal the proceeds and decamp with his sizzling secretary (Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, who's been better).
In the original film, the descendent of the noble knight (who's called Godefroy, rather than Thibault) has fallen on hard times and sold the family castle to the descendent of Godefroy's serf, Jacquouille. If Godefroy can't return to his own time, terrible consequences will ensue. There are no particular consequences at stake here, perhaps because the soft-bellied John Hughes co-wrote the remake with Clavier and Jean-Marie Poiré (who also directed both versions). The original wove a suspenseful and surprisingly heartfelt drama within the slapstick that was greatly abetted by Reno's interpretation of knighthood: genuinely noble, yet as innocently crude as his times. Heartfelt as Reno and Applegate are here, the film strands them with an impotently blustering, straw-dog villain and a limp, directionless story. There are laughs to be found if you love Reno and have fond memories of the original (which spawned an inferior 1998 sequel that was never released in the U.S.), but the bleak and grainy cinematography, awkward directing and surprisingly cheesy computer effects work against the effects of affection. An uncredited Kelsey Grammer provides opening narration.
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- Released: 2001
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A Frenchman-out-of-water comedy. Jean Reno and Christian Clavier reprise their roles from the 1993 medieval time-travel tale LES VISITEURS, one of France's highest-grossing homegrown films — in both senses of the term "gross." A cheerfully vulgar, slapstic… (more)