“The Visitors” and “The Visitors 2” are cult comedies of French cinema. What was the surprise of their fans when they discovered that an American remake of the first part was in preparation! Released in 2001, “The Visitors to America” was a resounding flop which convinced neither critics nor spectators. Worse still: Gaumont’s finances were heavily weighed down by this failure.
Visitors to America : goodbye Jacquouille, hello André le Paté
Remember the end of Visitors 2 : Jacquouille and Godefroy meet again in the 18th century, in the midst of the French Revolution. A final cliffhanger sequence which suggested that the third part would take place during this time. Yet everything is called into question when American director and producer John Hughes (Breakfast Club) contacts Gaumont to negotiate with Jean-Marie Poiré and Christian Clavier the rights of the work. Indeed, the latter liked a lot Visitors and its sequel. He therefore wishes to offer his American audience a US version.
If the two men are initially skeptical about the project, they end up accepting the idea. They therefore agree to work in this film entitled Visitors to America (Just Visiting in the USA). Jacquouille is thus renamed André le Paté, and Godefroy is named Thibaut in this remake. Christian Clavier and Jean Reno resume their respective roles, although their surnames have been changed. The same goes for Jean-Marie Poiré who finds his position as director and uses as a pseudonym: Jean-Marie Gaubert. The rest of the cast includes some well-known names across the Atlantic such as Christina Applegate, Tara Reid or even Malcolm McDowell.
The ball of the saga
If the scenario of Visitors to America remains roughly the same as the original movie (except the two medieval men end up in 21st century Chicago), the film undergoes a few changes along the way. Thus, the production is prohibited from showing the rotten teeth of the character played by Christian Clavier. As for Jacquard, a contemporary descendant of Jacquouille, he completely disappears from the remake.
The tide begins to turn when John Hughes withdraws from the project, after Gaumont has invested more than 600 million francs for the film (significant budget overruns have also occurred). This departure plunges the film into chaos and increases the atmosphere on the set. Jean-Marie Poiré and Christian Clavier will thus get confused for a story of big money, which has the consequence a boycott by the director for the promotion of the film.
The film’s release only completes a wobbly project from the start. Indeed, Visitors to America gets assassinated by the American press. The same goes for French critics.
At the box office level, it’s a total disaster since it only brings in $ 16 million, for a budget of $ 40 million. It must be said that the prohibition of the film to those under 13 in the United States did not facilitate its distribution in the big rooms. This flop makes Gaumont fall into a nightmare, since the company then shows a loss of 437 million francs, she who had already lost money a year earlier with the failure of the film Vatel, a large French production intended for the international market. The famous distributor will take a long time to recover.
This failure sounded like the beginning of the end for director Jean-Marie Poiré, who had made a splendid comeback in the 90s. His next film, My wife’s name is Maurice was also a failure, plunging the director into a new desert crossing of almost 15 years. In regards to Visitors to America, Poiré described the film as an “absurd experience” in the columns of the Point in 2016.
As for Christian Clavier and Jean Reno, the failure of this remake affected them, to the point of not discussing again a sequel to Visitors 2. The franchise therefore remained dead, until the two men change their mind about ten years later. In 2016, therefore released in theaters Visitors: the Revolution which brings together the Poiré-Clavier-Reno trio.