The last time the Disney folks remade a sophomoric French comedy, turning Little Indian, Big City into Jungle 2 Jungle, the result was even worse than the original—and a resounding flop. But they’ve done it again, and this time the American version, while just as crude as the original, is livelier, better-paced, and endowed with far slicker special effects. John Hughes joined original scripters Jean-Marie Gaubert (who also directed both movies) and Christian Clavier (who plays the slobby peasant sidekick in both) in reconstituting Les Visiteurs’ story of two 12th-century Frenchmen who travel to the present day as Just Visiting’s tale of two 12th-century Frenchmen who travel to present-day Chicago. Count Thibault of Malfete (original star Jean Reno) and his servant André (Clavier) make their time trip in an effort to save Thibault’s beloved, Rosalind (Christina Applegate), whom the count stabbed under the influence of a magic potion. But their spell-casting travel agent (Malcolm McDowell) accidentally sends them forward rather than backward in time, so the medievalists wake up in a Chicago museum where the resident expert on their era just happens to be Thibault’s distant descendent Julia (Applegate again). Julia needs a nobleman to rescue her, too, because her odious fiancé (Matthew Ross) is only after the Malfete fortune. As in the original, much of the humor involves the visitors’ reactions to contemporary technology—usually destructive—as well as their poor hygiene and vulgar eating habits. André will put just about anything in his mouth—which is more a toddler trait than a medieval one, but certainly qualifies him for a place in this new Dark Age of gross-out comedies. The other comic element that has been mostly excised is the original’s commentary on class distinctions; the remake, unsurprisingly, prefers self-actualization: Thibault gives Julia assertiveness training by teaching her how to handle a sword. In the sequel, presumably, he’ll be booked on Oprah. —Mark Jenkins

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