Hollywood adaptations of hit French comedies are either mediocre ("Three Men and a Baby") or plain embarrassing ("My Father, the Hero"). So Jean-Marie Gaubert's American remake of his own 1993 time-travelling romp "Les Visiteurs" should be no occasion for dancing in the cinema aisles but, unexpectedly, it turns out to be almost as entertaining as the original.
Much of the reason comes down to employing the same director and stars. Jean Reno and Christian Clavier reprise their roles - albeit renamed - as Thibault of Malfete and his squire André le Pate. They're accidentally whisked from the 12th to the 21st century after Malcolm McDowell's wizard screws up a spell to send them back in time to save the life of the count's betrothed, Princess Rosalind (Applegate).
The crucial change in this bigger-budgeted version is that they pop up in present-day Chicago, where they meet Thibault's ancestor, museum curator Julia (Applegate again). This accentuates the duo's fish-out-of-water predicament, replacing the first film's tendency towards bedroom farce with big city sight-seeing. An expanded role for Clavier, meanwhile, sees the servile André being introduced to the all-American joys of liberty, democracy, and the pursuit of bad fashion.
Both Reno and Clavier fit comfortably back into their characters, Reno underplaying nicely against his Marty Feldman-esque sidekick's capers. And director Gaubert wisely leaves them to it. Most of the best gags from the original return, too, including encounters with cars, toilet bowls, and Chanel aftershave, and a kitchen ice-maker provides one of several successful new routines.
For those with vivid memories of "Les Visiteurs", the film may be an underwhelming experience, but for newcomers it should prove time enjoyably spent.