by Aaron Neathery
Daily Cougar Staff
**1/2 (out of **** stars)
It's hard to understand why The Visitors is the biggest grossing comedy in French cinema history. Of course, Pauly Shore's popularity here probably has other countries scratching their heads.
The Visitors isn't a bad movie, it's just frustratingly uneven. The plot centers around Godefroy, Comte de Montmirail and Papincourt (Jean Reno), a knight from the realm of King Louis VI, and his squire Jacquouas (Christian Clavier). At the beginning of the picture, Godefroy has been betrothed the daughter of the Duke of Puglia, Frenegonde (Valerie Lemercier), and, after a few scenes of hilarious and gratuitous gore, is on his way to the wedding.
On the way, he and his band of men run across a witch performing a ritual with her coven. Believing himself invincible, Godefroy captures the evil witch and begins to cart her back to his castle. This proves to be a mistake.
Godefroy, under the witch's spell, shoots his fiancee's father through the forehead with a crossbow, thus spoiling his wedding plans.
In an attempt to rectify this tragic mistake, Godefroy enlists the help of a wizard, Eusaebius (Pierre Vial). Eusaebius, intending to send Godefroy and Jacquouas back in time to prevent the incident, accidentally sends the pair ahead in time by some 900 years.
Once they arrive in the 1990s, the plot thickens. Godefroy meets the present-day Countess of Montmirail, Beatrice, his distant granddaughter and the spitting image of his betrothed, Frenegonde. Beatrice mistakes Godefroy for her cousin Hubert, who had a racing-car accident.
Beatrice now lives in a humble cottage with her dentist husband, having sold the family castle to a nouveau-riche hotelier named Jacqart, who is the distant grandson of Jacquouas the squire (who is mistaken for Jacquart's brother).
Godefroy must find the recipe for the wizard's potion in the lost dungeon of the castle-turned-luxury hotel owned by Jacquouas's distant relative, so he and his squire can return to the past and prevent the accidental killing of Frenegonde's father.
Confused yet? There's even a subplot about stolen jewels and a romance between Jacquouas and a bag lady named Ginette (Marie-Anne Chazel) that further complicates matters.
The problem with The Visitors does not lie with the script. After all, many of these elements have been used before to much greater effect. The problem is that the director, Jean-Marie Poiré, doesn't even try to help us understand what's going on. His directing style seems to consist of thousands of three-second cutaway shots. This manic breathlessness only makes a complicated plot seem absolutely incoherent.
The Visitors has its share of funny moments, most of them concerning bodily fluids, farting, belching and bowls of thick liquids being dumped on people's heads (which seemed much funnier in Jeunet and Caro's Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children).
Get yourself in the mood for this kind of thing and bring a scorecard. You may have to take notes.
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