Just Visiting (2000)

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Released 11-Sep-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 84:29
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jean-Marie Poiré
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Jean Reno
Christian Clavier
Christina Applegate
Matthew Ross
Tara Reid
Bridgette Wilson-Sampras
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $36.95 Music John Powell


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Bulgarian
Danish
Finnish
Hebrew
Hindi
Norwegian
Portuguese
Swedish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Isn't it always the way? Hollywood gets hold of a great non-English language film, attempts a remake, and completely stuffs it up. At first glance that would seem to be the case with Just Visiting — but look a little deeper, and it becomes apparent that there is something very strange going on here. Strange enough that I'm sure there must be a secret government investigation going on right at this moment. What am I talking about? Well, that story starts back in 1993...

    It's the early 90s, and a French comedy is setting the world on fire. The film is Les Visiteurs — a film featuring Jean Reno as a 12th century French nobleman who is, mistakenly, sent forward in time to the present day, and must contend with the differences between ancient and modern times, while trying to find a way back to his rightful place in history. Les Visiteurs would go on to become one of the highest grossing French films of all time, taking close to $US100 million worldwide. That sort of success gets noticed, and, back in the early nineties, foreign films were even less accessible to the English-speaking world than they are now (the wide cinematic releases of titles such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brotherhood of the Wolf would not have been possible then). So, to the money men of today, here was a film that was enormously successful throughout the French-speaking world, but which remained largely unknown to English-speaking countries. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

    The end result, unfortunately, is one of the most embarrassingly unfunny, least likeable, and most ill-conceived films every made. There is not one redeeming quality about this film. Let's start with the story. It is not just one big cliché, but an enormous number of them, seemingly joined back-to-back. Like the original, we follow a 12th century count - Count Thibault (Jean Reno) — and his faithful peasant servant/jester (and the single most annoying film-character ever created) André le Pate (Christian Clavier) as they are sent forward to the present day in a magic-spell gone wrong. Arriving in modern day Chicago (yes...the spell apparently transported them across continents as well as time) Thibault suffers a major shock when he comes face-to-face with the love of his life, Princess Rosalind (Christina Applegate). But wait! It's actually Julia Malfete (ah...Christina Applegate), his great, great, (times that by a few) granddaughter. With Julia's help, Thibault and André search desperately for a way back to their own time, and help Julia make a few life-decisions along the way. The problem is, we've seen all this before. Okay, so some of it was in films that were actually inspired by the original, and we should give Just Visiting some lee-way, as it is a remake after all, and to give the movie some credit, it does actually show promise in the first five minutes before we arrive in modern times. All potential it may have had, however, goes out the window mere seconds after the action shifts to the good ol' US of A. Every action that is taken, every "twist" in the plot is foreshadowed so far ahead as to make any deviations in the story pointless. Most of what happens is so clichéd, it is almost cringe-worthy, and is at times even embarrassing to sit through. This truly is a movie where it is a great pleasure to reach the credits — in fact, I personally needed to split the viewing into two separate sessions, which is saying something as the running time is a mere 84 minutes, including credits.

    Okay, so the story and script are no good, but what about the acting? Well, it's not as bad, but between some poor casting, and the poor script, it is certainly not enough to make the film even remotely interesting. Jean Reno turns in a dead-pan performance that at least gives hints as to his true talent, and Matt Ross, as Julia's no good fiancé, steals almost every scene he is in, but that is about where it ends. Christian Clavier is excruciatingly annoying, while Christina Applegate proves yet again that she is far better at looking good than acting. Finally, American Pie alumnus Tara Reid makes a decent attempt at playing against type as a downtrodden, and decidedly unglamorous gardener, but far more notable than her performance is her look. This is the most natural Reid has ever looked, and I imagine ever will, which is a pity, as her true beauty gets a chance to come through, without quite so many layers of make-up and styling between her and the lens.

    Having looked at the acting, and the plot, that brings us to the most depressing aspect about Just Visiting. It is not the terrible script, the mediocre acting, or even the fact that the film is a re-make. What makes the complete disaster of a movie that is Just Visiting so tragic is that not only do the re-make and the original share the same on-screen leads in Jean Reno and Christian Clavier, but the two movies share the same creative team. The original was penned by Christian Clavier and Jean-Marie Poiré with the latter directing — which was the exact same combination that produced the remake. Was it a case of being too close to their own material? Were they too enamoured with their own ability after the success of the original to think that a remake would require any effort? In short, how could they have got it so wrong the second time around? In the end, perhaps a secret government investigation may determine the answers, but mere mortals — including the DVD viewing public — will just have to move on with our lives and live without them. Any informants out there should feel free to drop me a line though...

    In the end, there is little more to say about Just Visiting than "stay away", and "avoid at all costs". It simply is not worth the trauma.

    As a final aside, it is somewhat fitting that the back-cover blurb contains a rather obvious error, stating that the "12th century" count is propelled "almost 200 years" into the future. Unless Chicago has looked the same from roughly 300 years prior to British occupation until the present day, the time travelled would be more like 900 years.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    In the early days of DVD (and even in the not-so-early days), there was a running joke that stipulated the quality of a transfer would be inversely proportional to the quality of the movie. While thankfully we are now more often than not presented with excellent transfers on the quality films, the old rule certainly applies to this transfer, as while the movie may not be worth the disc it is pressed on, this transfer is extremely impressive.

    Presented at the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is extremely good, displaying a very high level of detail. The only time the sharpness is at all lowered is during the first few minutes when there is considerable use of effects work which has caused the film to degrade slightly, making it a little blurry. Additionally, the effects don't quite mesh with the surrounding areas, making some areas of the screen "jitter" a little. There is not much in the way of grain. Again, the opening few scenes display most of the grain to be found in the movie (such as at 3:38) which makes it a distinct possibility this is "digital" grain caused as a side-effect of special effects work. Shadow detail is excellent, making night time scenes a pleasure to watch. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are generally excellent. In ancient times, they show lush greens of the forest, deep blacks of dungeons, and the rich reds of the throne-room decorations. In modern times, they display all colours vibrantly, from costumes to sets to effects. Only for one scene within the opening monologue do the colours look a little washed out - and that scene is gone as quickly as it appears.

    There are absolutely no compression or film artefacts in this transfer. There is a small amount of aliasing, although when present, it is quite severe. Examples are the car grille at 25:18 and the building at 55:41. Additionally, the armour worn by Thibault for most of the movie causes minor shimmering when he moves, but it is not particularly distracting.

    The subtitles are very accurate (although not quite word-for-word), are well paced, and easy to read.

    This is a single layer disc, and as such does not have a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    As with the video, the audio presented for Just Visiting is painfully good.

    There is a solitary audio track on this disc, being the original English dialogue track in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, even with the accents of Jean Reno and Christian Clavier. Audio sync is spot on throughout the transfer.

    The score is credited to John Powell and is a bit of a strange beast. At times it fits the nature of the movie quite well, being big, bright and brassy, but at others it doesn't seem to be able to rein in its power. A good example is a scene where Julia learns to empower herself — the music is exciting, pulsating its way to a powerful climax. It is extremely cheesy, and would not be out of place in a children's mystery show, playing over a montage of the hero going through the pieces of a puzzle, and managing to fit them together; not a moment of self-empowerment.

    Surround use is extremely good, from the directional surround on many occasions, to the constant score. The only let-down is the general lack of ambient sound.

    The subwoofer is just as impressive as the surround track, backing up both the score and the more bass-reliant foley effects very effectively.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and does not feature any audio.

Theatrical Trailer (1:49)

    Presented at 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio this trailer doesn't really let on as to how utterly terrible this film is...which is to say that it does a very good job.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    10 minutes of behind-the-scenes information does not a compelling difference make, so this one is a draw.

Summary

    Just Visiting is one of the most tragically terrible attempts at film-making to be released in the last few years. It takes a successful French film and turns it into a lifeless mess that has absolutely nothing to like about it. The worst part is, the creative team responsible for the original were in charge of this one. How could it go so wrong?

    The video quality, respecting the old rule inversely relating transfer quality to movie quality, is excellent.

    The audio quality also goes above and beyond the call of duty, presenting a wide and immersive soundstage that is a pleasure to listen to.

    The solitary extra is more indicative of this movie's quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

Other Reviews NONE
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