Damn those greedy Hollywood lowbrows! Once again, they’ve taken a fine foreign film and turned it into…well, pretty much the same genial junk it was to begin with. Just Visiting retools the 1993 comedy Les Visiteurs — a box office grand fromage in France, a bombe here — with the same director, male stars, and premise: A 12th-century knight (Mission: Impossible‘s Jean Reno) and his idiot servant (Christian Clavier, who co-wrote both versions) time-travel to our century, whereupon much slapstick merriment ensues with cars and indoor plumbing.
What’s the difference in the American remake? Blonds, nifty CGI effects, and personal growth. Christina Applegate plays Reno’s modern descendant, a noodle with no self-esteem and a rat boyfriend (Matthew Ross) until the knight teaches her to roar like a lion; Tara Reid is the working-class chippy Clavier falls for. Since John Hughes cowrote the script, someone gets hit in the crotch and the entire shebang has been moved to Chicago (don’t ask why the time travelers arrive speaking English rather than Middle French). Except for one blissfully splattery meal in an upscale restaurant, though, Visiting forgoes the destructo silliness of the original in favor of one too many bland self-help subplots. If it’s a decent time waster for older kids, it’s also the equivalent of taking them to a McDonald’s on the Champs-Elysées.