Review: Just Visiting (2001) Blu Ray Release from Mill Creek (2016)


There is one unfair reason why I never bothered to watch this movie since it came out, well, two reasons. The first reason is Jean Reno. I absolutely LOVE Jean Reno when he’s in the hands of Luc Besson. His performances in The Big Blue (1988) and The Professional (1994) are truly hard to beat; he ruled those roles. Then his on screen performances became not so great or a side step for an actor whom deserves more leading roles or supporting roles with more bite. In most of the American-titled movies he’s been in he’s generally been typecast as the French buffoon or a dull straight man. I get a feeling that he has name recognition but American casting directors don’t know what to do with him?


I was excited to see Just Visiting in the cue of Mill Creek selections for review. I pretty much forgot about the movie and would probably have never run across it again. I’m hoping for something that’s a bit Morons From Outer Space (1985) meets Earth Girls Are Easy (1988). The premise of Just Visiting is a total 80’s plot, there isn’t any reason why this is a movie made for 2001.

The plot is a fish out of water story where two 12th century knights are magically transported to 2001 Chicago and where the laughs begin! This brings me to my second area of situational distain. There are very few good movies of a future or past brought into the present. Most of the good ones had either a big budget and/or had a really fresh take. Other films were just looking to exploit a dying franchise. I can be a bit cynical when it comes to past meets the “present” or future meets the “present”. I find it to be lazy writing, lazy production, and lazy design.


But, in the case of Just Visiting, there are some promising factors. John “what you know about teen interaction during the 80’s was shaped by me even if you lived through it” Hughes co-wrote the movie! I’m guessing this was in-between filing restraining orders against Judd Nelson and crapping out another Beethoven script. I’m really hoping I can feel some of John in this.

Christina Applegate and Tara Reid! The early 2000’s were kinda weird for everyone. It’s around the birth/explosion of reality TV and 9/11 so we’ve been caught in a mosh ever since. With 80’s and 90’s nostalgia right now at its peak, it’s obvious that Just Visiting needs to be seen.

Without further ado: Just Visiting (2001)


From the start it is beautifully shot and has a Terry Gilliam Erik The Viking/Time Bandits vibe. For a brief scene there is a CGI dragon and isn’t that bad for 2001 but it’s still CGI. Such effects put against such a rich and beautiful backdrop is jarring. Considering the light comedic tone I would prefer either stop-motion or full size puppet.

Oh, wait, the movie kicks into high gear wasting very little time in advancing the plot. Surprisingly, the banquet with hallucinations is really freaky and well done. Everything moved so fast I don’t know the names of any of the characters. I can say that a few bad things happen to where Malcolm McDowell is called upon to right what went wrong but as with all magic, there is a consequence (you’ve at least seen The Craft, right? Same rules apply).

When Jean Reno, Thibault, and Christian Clavier, Andre, wake in present time 2000 it is in a museum where Thibault’s descendent Christina Applegate, Julia, is the spitting image of Thibault’s bride, Rosalind, from a full century in the past. Present time Julia recognizes Thibault as a lost cousin and decides to help. As you can imagine, there are a bunch fish out of water awkward moments but also some genuine moments as I felt how overwhelming it was for Thibault and Andre when they first step foot out of the museum.

The misfires come by some extra CGI oddness, forced reactions, and juvenile foolery. It’s most definitely PG-13 considering the shriveled up severed heads in a soup, salty language, and flippin’ the bird grannies. At times the buffoonery feels very 10 year-old boogery so I’m kinda confused what type of audience this film is targeted for? I also think it might be the nature of the director whom is known for making films in his native country/language, therefore, some of the tone might be a little different than what an American audience would expect? I always think of the Italian/American productions especially those starring Terrance Hill and/or Bud Spencer; the movies are masterfully done but the tone of the film is just a bit off from what I’m used to and that makes for a uniquely fun movie!

Amongst many modern conveniences Thibault and Andre fumble with refrigerator icemakers, light switches, dog food, toilets, bathing, and telephones. It’s becoming more of a gross-out than anything but it should’ve been expected. Andre is the lower-class peasant Mr. Bean of the movie. In a different time let us not forget that burping is a sign of a meal well made and, according to this movie, so is farting. Would I be surprised or disappointed if I didn’t see a public bathroom scene where the sanitizing pucks in the men’s urinal wasn’t mistaken as a minty dessert? Yeah, it happens.

Thibault is adamant on finding a wizard without sounding like a lunatic in modern year 2000? At this point everything seems like a series of circumstance than a developed story. It’s as though I am watching Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure through Napoleon’s POV for an hour and forty minutes. Either you get caught up in the ride or, as I’m feeling, it’s a series of uninspiring skits. I think I would rather watch Encino Man as it has slightly better re-watch value.

If the epiphanies were more satisfying than a race to the finish I would’ve found it charming and a cute guilty pleasure. Not even Malcolm McDowell as the eccentric English Wizard (complete with what has to be the longest Fu-Manchu beard in cinema history) could save the movie. I don’t feel any chemistry between Reno and Applegate even though they try like hell to make it work.

The ending is a big ol’ ball of happy predictability of which is fine if the entire film leading up to this actually meant something. It felt like a copy of a copy paint-by-numbers sort of movie. I can’t really tell what influence John Hughes (one of the three credited writers) had on the story, none of it had any of his appeal or perhaps it was stuck in Beethoven-land.

I mean, really, it’s not a terrible movie and I think for some people it might be on of those movies, at that time is meaningful or strikes a chord for that particular year and generation. I later found out that there is a whole series of these movies made in France way before the US version. In hindsight it totally makes sense that Just Visiting is the by-product of a proven International franchise. It does feel like they took the best bits from the original source material in hope it would work for a US audience. It does have that Yahoo Serious vibe to it. This is where I suspect John Hughes was working on the script to “Americanize” it?

So I guess I was right in feeling like this is not too dissimilar than a Terrance Hill/Bud Spencer movie wishing for a Night On Earth (1991) Jim Jarmusch/Roberto Benigni stroke of brilliance and charisma; wishful thinking. The movie is shot with a cinematic eye and the medieval footage is exceptionally gorgeous that I wish the movie did a reversal – Applegate’s character goes to medieval times. The movie was too late with other movies doing the same thing with just as much of a potentially dull thud but had charm: Trancers (1984), Masters Of The Universe (1987), and Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal Of Time (1991).


The cinematography is A-list but the tone and direction is confusing. It does have its moments but the overall story-arc is way too thin, predictable, shallow, and abrupt. At best I’d give it a C (or a solid D if it weren’t for the beautiful cinematography). I’m guessing it’s also one of those movies that don’t stand the test of time even for those who saw it back in 2001. I would also suspect that it doesn’t hold a candle to the original foreign releases?

— Just Visiting (2001)
Rated PG-13, distributed by Mill Creek Entertainment. 2016 Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc.