Picks and Pans Review: The Visitors

updated 07/15/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/15/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Jean Reno

In this lowbrow French comedy, a 12th-century knight (Mission: Impossible's Reno, who acts with stony majesty) enlists the aid of a wizard to travel back in time for a few hours—he wants to avert a murder he just accidentally committed—but gets propelled, along with his squire, into the 20th century. There he learns, to his disgust, that his family has declined into mere suburban comfort and that his castle is now run as a luxury hotel by the squire's distasteful, socially striving descendant. The knight isn't all that tasteful himself, given his ignorance of hygiene. Shown a toilet, he observes it with blank indifference.

Someone must have thought that bathroom humor is comedy's international language, translatable into worldwide guffaws. But The Visitors, which has become one of France's top-grossing movies ever, is resoundingly unfunny. Perhaps what really appealed to Gallic audiences was the movie's undercurrent of nostalgic gloire. (R)

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