Title: Les Visiteurs
Release Date: 27 January 1993
Director: Jean-Marie Poiré
Production Company: Gaumont
I watched the hit French comedy The Visitors back in the 1990s and remember it being a funny, Monty Python-style comedy. It surprised me that the French could be so crude. The story involves a 12th-century knight, Godefroy de Montmirail (Jean Reno) and his servant Jacquouille la Fripouille (Christian Clavier) who through the machinations of a wizard are to travel through time to right a mistake. They are accidentally sent to late-20th century France instead, where they meet Godefroy’s descendant Béatrice (Valérie Lemercier) and learn that Jacquouille’s descendant Jacques-Henri Jacquard (also Clavier) now runs the Montmirail castle as a hotel. Chaos ensues as Godefroy looks for a way to return to his time, while Jacquouille begins to like the opportunities for a peasant in post-Revolutionary France.
This movie is not the laugh riot I remember. If anything, it seems to lack ambition for telling a bigger story and taking advantage of the culture clash and fish-out-of-water elements for comedy. Instead there are a lot of gags involving people hitting other people and breaking things, which gets old fast. I don’t know why I liked it so much all those years ago, but it still does have certain charm. Reno is great at never breaking from his serious character despite all the madness around him. Meanwhile Clavier is like Rowan Atkinson in his ability to be funny by doing things that are very dumb. It’s a mystery why this movie became such a global hit, but despite all its flaws I still have a soft spot for The Visitors.