A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a ferocious dragon guards a witch's lair. Sorcery makes a roomful of people look like grotesque, talking vegetable-beings. A dismembered wizard's body re-animates and re-assembles. African-American characters seem to be comic-relief menials. Regular use of "s--t." Some sloppy eating, flatulence, fighting/dueling, drinking alcohol, and playing with toilets from the Dark Ages characters. The modern characters cohabit without benefit of marriage. One female goes through deliberately seductive poses in revealing clothes. A wizard uses an animal penis in a potion. Magic makes characters deform, mutate, and even explode. Frequent slapstick mayhem, usually with swords. An innocent girl is stabbed to death (magic reverses her fate, however); a thief is threatened with amputation of his hand. The bewildered heroes thoroughly wreck modern appliances, including an SUV.
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What's the story?
In JUST VISITING, a 12th century nobleman, Count Thibault of Malfete (Jean Reno), and his servant Andre (Christian Clavier) find themselves transported to the year 2000 when an aging wizard (Malcolm McDowell) demonstrates a potion that enables people to travel through time. They end up in a Chicago museum that has relics from Thibault's time on display. The pair are aided by Julia (Christina Applegate), an employee of the museum. When the Count learns that Julia is his descendant, he realizes he must get back to his time.
Is it any good?
This remake tones down the chaotic bloodshed (replacing it with expensive but unnecessary computer-generated special effects), but not the bad taste. Thibault and Andre are grungy, foul-smelling and gluttonous, and they react to modern-day civilization with bewilderment and drawn swords, as they trash cars, TVs, and refrigerators. The filmmakers delight in repeating these antics repeatedly -- Andre is particularly enchanted by toilets -- and the jokes don't get any fresher the second time around. Neither do Applegate's blandly deadpan reactions. Scriptwriter John Hughes helped update the scenario, and his touch is most apparent in the subplot of Julia learning to be a strong, assertive individual. She owes thanks to her semi-barbaric ancestor Thibault, who enforces the Malfete family motto "Courage is our creed." The movie gets more entertaining near the end, with a cute role for McDowell, the only actor here who underplays as the fashion-conscious sorcerer. There's also a genuinely rousing climactic chase.
You can find 1993's Les Visiteurs on video -- be warned, however, that it's rated R for gore and bad taste. In a rare move for a Hollywood remake of a foreign film, the original French director, Jean-Marie Poire, came along for the new version, as did stars Jean Reno and Christian Clavier. The European actors are a refreshing change from, say, Mel Gibson (in his comedy roles) and Martin Short, but their performances are grounded in little more than slapstick and buffoonish mayhem.
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