I am a sucker for Fist Out of Water movies. No matter how bad, how poorly conceived, or how incompetently executed, even a bad Fish Out of Water movie can make me smile. Some of my favorites have been the Crocodile Dundee series with Paul Hogan and the Farscape TV show. I couldn’t really tell you why I like the genre so much, even though I’ve seen hundreds of them, and can pretty much predict what’s going to happen from the first moments of culture clash. There’s just something about a guy/gal/group trying to cope with a whole alien society competely different from his own that intrigues me.
That brings us to Just Visiting, a successful Fish Out of Water French film turned into an American version. It’s still made and produced and stars the French, but with Christina Applegate as the heroine, and a cast of other American actors in supporting roles. Still I consider Just Visiting a French film — if not in aesthetics and style, then at least in its production backgrounds. I couldn’t tell you how faithful this version is to the French one, since I have yet to see that version.
The American version that I did see is as predictable as all the other Fish Out of Water that I’ve seen, and it provides all the necessary laughs that I would expect. The protagonists in Visiting are two Frenchmen from the 12th century, a nobleman and his peasant servant. With protagonists like that to pit against 21st century Chicago, you know there’s plenty of fun to be had.
Is there anything worthwhile to learn from Just Visiting? Nah. Then again, was there anything worthwhile to learn from Crocodile Dundee other than a man with a big knife in New York City is funny? Nah. The same holds true for Visiting. It’s a goofy, highly predictable, and funny movie. The first 40 minutes, in fact, are its most effective and hilarious. What makes the movie even more outrageous is that the two Frenchmen don’t even try to fit into the 21st century in the first 40 minutes, but acts as if they’re still in the 12th century, gross behavior and caste system and all.
The funniest bits include when the two Frenchmen goes to a fancy restaurant with Applegate’s Juliet and her fianc’ Hunter; another funny sequence is when Jean Reno as the French nobleman Count Malfete and Christian Claviar as Malfete’s peasant servant, Andre, take a bath. Sure, there are some lowbrow moments, but if you wanted Shakespeare, should you even bother with Just Visiting in the first place?
The acting is competent all around, with the standout being Claviar as Andre, whose pratfalls and eating habits provide much of the laugh. As Andre brags to a hotdog vendor, “I’ve eaten every kind of dog!” And he’s not talking about hotdogs, folks. Reno plays his Count with a straight face and is the straight man to Claviar’s goofy Andre. Tara Reid shows up as Juliet’s neighbor and as a love interest for Andre. She convinces him that he’s no one’s servant and shows him what being independent is. The two’s scenes are not the funniest, but does give Andre some depth in an otherwise shallow movie. There are some attempts at a message about self-determination and courage, but those fall by the waysides when you have Andre eating dog food and Andre and Malfete attacking a car they mistaken for a dragon.
There are only two kinds of people who go to see Fish Out of Water movies. Those who likes Fish Out of Water movies of any kind, and those who thinks they’re above Fish Out of Water movies. If you fit in the second category, avoid this movie at all costs. But if you’re like me and enjoy a good (or even a not so good) Fish Out of Water movie, then by all means see Just Visiting. As previously mentioned, I’m a sucker for this kind of movie, and fortunately for me, Just Visiting’s first 40 minutes had me in stitches, and is worth the price of admission in itself.
Jean-Marie Poir’ (director) / Jean-Marie Poir’ (screenplay)
CAST: Jean Reno …. Count Thibault
Christian Clavier …. Andr’ le Pate
Christina Applegate …. Julia Malfete
Matt Ross …. Hunter