Remember in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the silly fighting French — played by Englishmen — sneered, ”Ah wave mah private parts at yewr ohnntie’s!” and we all giggled? Now it’s the French waving at themselves, in a dumb and dumber farce that’s part Monty Python, part Time Bandits, and part Woody Allen when he threw historical vignettes into his comedies — but with the whole adding up to less than the sum of those parts.
The Visitors, Jean-Marie Poire’s festival of stupid bodily function jokes and occasional sly jabs at the Gallic national character, stars Jean Reno (The Professional) and Joe Pesci look-alike Christian Clavier as a 12th-century knight and his squire who drink a wizard’s potion meant to send them back in time just long enough to stop a misdirected arrow, but — what with an important ingredient left out — land in the neighborhood of their 20th-century descendants. Naturally, the pair can’t fathom automobiles. But they do recognize that the current countess (Valerie Lemercier) resembles the knight’s old beloved. And that the pretentious, nouveau riche proprietor of the ancient castle-turned-swanky hotel (Clavier, in a nice turn on a double role) is a dead ringer for the squire. Once a peasant, not always a peasant, thanks to the Revolution, eh? The French laughed their tetes off; this is France’s highest grossing film. C+