Review: 'The Intouchables' is a real crowd-pleaser

On paper, "The Intouchables" looks like eat-your-vegetables cinema: the story of a wealthy, white disabled man and the troubled black youth from the projects who becomes his reluctant caretaker. Surely, life lessons will be learned by all and an unlikely friendship will form across racial and socioeconomic lines and we'll all feel good about ourselves walking out of the theater afterward.

It could have been painfully mawkish, but writers and directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano upend expectations by infusing the comedy with a subversive, playful tone throughout, with some totally inappropriate humor and even some surprises. (There's a Hitler joke, just to give you an idea of where they're willing to go for a laugh.) It's sweet but not saccharine, and the result is irresistibly crowd-pleasing.

The film is already a huge hit in its native France and beyond, having made nearly $340 million worldwide and earning Omar Sy the Cesar Award for best actor over the Oscar-winning star of "The Artist," Jean Dujardin. While you're watching it, you can just imagine how easy an English-language remake would be, you could cast it in your head — and indeed, the property already has been optioned for that very purpose. Until then, though, we can be charmed by the original.

The hugely charismatic Sy stars as Driss, a Senegalese ex-con who spends his days hanging out with his pals on the streets of Paris and not really trying to find work. He only answers an ad seeking help for the rich quadriplegic Philippe (Francois Cluzet) because he wants to make it appear as if he's job hunting in order to keep receiving welfare. But there's something about this guy that Philippe likes; he has no pity, he'll treat him like a man. Driss is hired, despite being totally unqualified.

And so begins the journey in which each helps the other become a better person. Yes, there's some obvious culture-clash stuff to be had here. Driss, who'd been sharing a crowded apartment with relatives of all ages, moves into Philippe's mansion and is wowed by the size of his opulent, private bathroom; Philippe, a sophisticated snob who became paralyzed in a paragliding accident, finds he actually likes Earth, Wind & Fire. Before Driss gets the gig, there's also the obligatory montage of wacky job candidates, all eager to say the right things during their interview, but even that works and it provides the set-up for the unflinching honesty that will become Driss' trademark.

While it all sounds too impossibly inspirational to be true, "The Intouchables" happens to have been inspired by a true story. Yes, the "Magical Negro" element of Sy's character may sound like a cliche and it might make some audience members uncomfortable, but his character is complex and flawed enough to transcend type. He and Cluzet are delightful together, each bringing a different kind of energy while bringing out the best in the other. Sy is all impulse and wisecracks, he's constantly in motion; Cluzet has the daunting task of trying to strike a powerful contrast while acting only from the neck up, and he pulls it off with stoic, bemused grace.

Philippe is drawn to the fact that Driss doesn't condescend to him; at the same time, "The Intouchables" condescends to neither character, and that straightforwardness and purity of emotion should cut through to even the most cynical viewer.

"The Intouchables," a Weinstein Co. Release, is rated R for language and some drug use. In French with English subtitles. Running time: 112 minutes. Three stars out of four.

___

Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G — General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG — Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 — Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R — Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 — No one under 17 admitted.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros
    Militants want US Marines pulled out of Negros

    The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) is calling for the pullout of US Marines who arrived in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last Wednesday to train Special Action Force (SAF) commandos and members of the allied forces. The SAF commandos and the allied forces will secure the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meeting in this city. Bayan-Negros secretary general Christian Tuayon said the US troops might violate the human rights of activists, especially those …

  • China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral
    China subs outnumber US fleet – admiral

    China is building some “fairly amazing submarines” and now has more diesel- and nuclear-powered vessels than the United States, a top US Navy admiral told US lawmakers on Wednesday, although he said their quality was inferior. Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, deputy chief of naval operations for capabilities and resources, told the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee that China was also expanding the geographic areas of operation for its submarines, and their length of …

  • Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together
    Couple married 67 years holds hands in final hours together

    FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — After spending 67 years together as devoted husband and wife, there was no question how Floyd and Violet Hartwig would end their lives — together. …

  • 3 Pinays on Forbes power women list
    3 Pinays on Forbes power women list

    Three Filipina executives, who are all daughters of known business tycoons in the country, made it to Forbes’ list of the 50 most powerful businesswomen in Asia. Teresita Sy-Coson, vice chairman of SM Investments and chairman of BDO Universal Bank, was included in the list for the fourth year in a row since its inception. “Under her (Sy-Coson) lead SMIC became the largest listed company on the Philippine Stock Exchange by market cap. Also in the 2015 list is 70-year-old Helen Yuchengco-Dee, …

  • Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR
    Pacman mega fight tax exemption up to Congress, BIR

    Malacañang is leaving it up to Congress and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to consider a proposed special tax exemption for boxing icon Manny Pacquiao in his much-awaited fight with Floyd Mayweather. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday it will have to be discussed by Congress because lawmakers are the ones who enact tax exemptions, special or general. Pacquiao has been dogged by unsettled tax obligations with the BIR. …

  • Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA
    Binay backs house arrest for JPE, GMA

    Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday supported proposals to put Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo under house arrest. “Government prosecutors are opposing house arrest for… Enrile. Binay issued the statement after the 91-year-old Enrile was rushed to the Makati Medical Center on Thursday due to pneumonia. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do,” he added. …

  • Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel
    Lupita Nyong'o's $150,000 Oscars dress stolen from hotel

    The $150,000 pearl-studded, custom-made Calvin Klein dress worn by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o at this year's Academy Awards has been stolen, police said on Thursday. The gown, embellished with 6,000 natural white pearls, was stolen from Nyong'o's room at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, during the day on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in West Hollywood said. "Ms Nyong'o was not in the room at the time of the theft," Deputy John Mitchell …

  • US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians
    US-led strikes on IS after group seizes 220 Christians

    The US-led coalition has carried out air strikes against the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria, where the jihadists have launched a new offensive and kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians. The raids on Thursday struck areas around the town of Tal Tamr in Hasakeh province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, without giving information on possible casualties. The town remains under the control of Kurdish forces, but at least 10 surrounding villages have been seized by IS, along …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options