Tastes Great, Less FIlling
Just Visiting is a treat, a fluffy little film which promises exactly what it delivers.
Helping the cause is probably the fact that this is a remake of a French film - which also starred Jean Reno. He is Count Thibault, from France, about to marry Princess Rosalind (Christina Applegate) in England when a rival slips him a hallucinogenic potion that makes him kill her. With the help of a friendly wizard, Thibault and his servant AndrÃ© are sent into the past to prevent the murder - except the spell is flawed, and the two end up in contemporary Chicago.
Why Chicago? Conveniently, the Count's bedroom set has been donated to a museum there by his eventual heir, Julia Malfete, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Rosalind, thanks to being played by the same actress. Movies are often described as obeying a certain "conservation of characters", whereby if two characters can actually be rolled into one, it will happen more often than not for budget reasons. What a delight for the producers when they can go so far as to have an actress play two parts!
After being hauled in by the museum guards, and then some distraction over resolving that Julia is not Rosalind, we proceed into a long stretch of Thibault and AndrÃ© playing the fish out of water routine. We expect it, and with the onus on these characters to deliver, they do - much further than necessary, but also much better than expected for such a time-worn theme. The gags are wonderful and imaginitive, and cause a fair amount of consternation for Julia, but more so for her fiancÃ© Hunter.
Our contemporary pair are convinced that Thibault is a cousin who has been missing off a yacht, and must certainly have some kind of amnesia now. Until Julia is finally convinced, we operate within a fairly standard idiot plot. Aside from Thibault's need to go back in time, we also deal with separate plotlines with Hunter's mistress (you see, he's with Julia because of the estate she inherited), as well as AndrÃ©'s budding interest in the neighbor's gardener (Tara Reid).
All three plots may reach their predictable endings, but the journey is worth the lack of suspense - Julia's very existence is acknowledged early on as confirmation the murder plot is spoiled.
I was surprised at how well Christina Applegate fit into her role - perhaps I've still held the mantle of Married...With Children on her shoulders for too long, even though she's clearly been trying to build a different image. She relates directly to the people around her, rather than being focused on the words she is saying. In a sense, she is the "straight man" for much of the movie, and it would not have worked without that sensibility. The gags would have faltered, and more importantly, our ability to care about the characters would vanish. Although the film can, at best, be described as mid-brow comedy, her performance is more than I fear some actors would think to aim for.
I am pleased that, aside from AndrÃ©'s plot, there's no real romance at play in this film. Usually, your leads are dealing with other problems and have some lovey-dovey scenes hacked on top of it. Here, we benefit from the leads being of the same blood for much of the film, and Hollywood fortunately (at least in this case) is squeamish about crossing some lines.
Just Visiting is Just Fun, and that's all there is to it.
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