Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Visitors

Les Visiteurs; fantasy comedy, France, 1993; D: Jean-Marie Poiré, S: Jean Reno, Christian Clavier, Valérie Lemercier

In the 12th century, knight Godefroy and his servant Jacquouille arrest a witch. However, she pours a magic potion into his water and causes Godefroy to hallucinate and kill the father of his fiance, Frenegonde. In order to correct his mistake, Godefroy and Jacquouille go to the wizard Eusebius to drink a magic potion which will send them a few hours back in time to stop this. However, they end up in year 1993 instead. Confused by the roads and machines, Godefroy is at first sent into a mental asylum, but finds pitty in Beatrice, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Frenegonde, who takes him and his servant in her house. After a lot of chaos, Godefroy finds the great-great-great-grandson of Eusebius, drinks a new magic potion, and returns back in the 12th century, right in time to stop himself from killing the father - and marries Frenegonde.

"The Visitors" is a real curiosity of cinema: back in 1993, it was the highest grossing French film of the year, with 13.8 million tickets sold at the box office, but in the rest of the world, it did not manage to repeat even a fraction of that success, since it became obvious to objective audiences that it is just plain a mess, a bad film. Already in the opening act in the 12th century, when knight Godefroy uses his sword to cut off the head of a knight, hallucinates that people around him are pigs while Jacquouille travels back in time by turning into shit, one already gets the idea what kind of a low, primitive humor the authors chose. The concept that French people from the middle ages travel to the modern times and experience a culture shock is great, but unfortunately the authors decided to take the worst possible direction of the story and insist on grimaces, vulgar, crude or intolerably vile jokes, thereby contaminating it entirely. In the entire film, there are only two good jokes: the genuine reaction of awe when Jacquouille and Godfrey stumble upon a road in the meadow and attack a yellow car; Jacquouille's tendency to say "OKAY" at every questionable occasion, suggesting that he is "acceptably" rude just because of an American influence. However, that's it. Nothing else is even worth mentioning. The rest of the film is just one forced empty walk full of contrived moments. It is a bad sign when the audience realises that the film ran out of ideas, and yet there is a full hour remaining. Sloppily assembled and catastrophically unimaginative, "The Visitors" is a terrible French attempt at appealing to the wide audience, with utterly underdeveloped potentials - when the best the authors can think off is Godeferey and Jacquouille taking a bath in clothes or making animal noises over the telephone, you know it should be done off with. Not even the charisma of the great Jean Reno cannot salvage this derangement.


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