Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
A medieval sorcerer accidentally sends a French knight and his serf on a trip into the future--landing them in today's Chicago, where the elevated trains terrify them. But they grow to like the city, and when the sorcerer prepares to return them to the Middle Ages, the serf is against it: "I want to stay here, where I can eat doughnuts and wear exciting men's fashions at rock-bottom prices." "Just Visiting," which tells their story, is one of those rare American remakes of a French film that preserves the flavor of the original and even improves upon it. The movie is a remake of "The Visitors," or "Les Visiteurs" (1993), which was the top-grossing comedy in French history, but did only moderate business in America. Like the original, it's broad and swaggering, but somehow it plays better in English--maybe because the fish-out-of-water concept works better with French and American accents, instead of everybody speaking in subtitles.
The movie, directed by Jean-Marie Gaubert, wisely centers on its two original French stars, Jean Reno (of "Mission Impossible" and "Godzilla") and Christian Clavier. They look and sound the part; I can imagine the roles being assigned to Adam Sandler and David Spade, but I don't want to. Reno is Sir Thibault, a French knight who goes to Sussex to marry the beautiful Rosalind (Christina Applegate). His vassal Andre (Clavier) follows along, trotting obediently behind the cart and being whacked occasionally just to honor the class divide.
After a setup heavy on special effects and overacting, involving witches, cauldrons and royal schemers, Thibault persuades a sorcerer (Malcolm McDowell) to jump them back a little in time, so they can get things right on a second try. The wizard, alas, miscalculates and sends them to modern Chicago, where the knight and serf are terrified by semis, awestruck by skyscrapers and soon involved in the life of Thibault's great-great-great-great-great (I think) granddaughter Julia (Applegate again).
She's the heir to the family's old European fortune, founded all those years ago by Thibault, and the spitting image of his beloved Rosalind. But her boyfriend, the sneering Hunter (Matthew Ross), wants her to sell the family's European estate, so he can get his claws on the money.