The Intouchables Directed by: Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano Cast: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: June 1, 2012
PLOT: A paraplegic French aristocrat (Cluzet) starts an unlikely friendship with his lower-class immigrant caretaker (Sy).
WHO'S IT FOR? Fans of buddy comedies, especially ones with interracial concepts that aren't actually self-conscious about ethnicity. This isn't France's version of The Blind Side.
Coming from a country that adores the buddy comedy, the French bro-mance The Intouchables is not a duet you've haven't heard before. This friendship's structure is so susceptible to weakness its potential could be toppled by the wrong trailer. Though foreign movies have the most misleading trailers of any "genre," thankfully The Intouchables doesn't function like this: "Philippe's (Cluzet) a grumpy paralyzed dude who learns that money can't buy you happiness. And Driss (Sy) is a man from the ghetto looking to make something of himself. Together, they start one wacky and unlikely friendship that explores both kinds of friendship, The Intouchables! Based on a true story."
Okay, yes, the "Based on a true story" hook is usual Hollywood B.S., but this is actually a real tale (this movie takes inspiration from a French documentary called A La Vie, A La Mort). And to be fair to The Intouchables in general, the chemistry between the two main characters has much more spark than just two opposing people mashed together to make a story of opposites.
The positively contagious kinship of The Intouchables is what saves this movie from being a regular buddy comedy with the expected kinds of lessons, and it is all with thanks to the duo of Cluzet (who even has Dustin Hoffman's face twitches) and Sy. These two are so strong together, with a shared sense of snark and desire to cut loose that they carry this movie alone on sequences of goofing off, such as when they turn a string quartet into their personal jukebox, have a one-man snowball fight. The ruffian Driss (who shakes up a d-bag who blocks Philippe's driveway, even though Philippe can't drive) does indeed prove to be a sweet fit for Philippe, who in turn educates Driss (sometimes unsuccessfully) about the finer joys in life, such as art, music, and hang gliding.
Outside of showing the fun had between an unlikely friendship, The Intouchables focuses on the troubled relationships of the individual characters, which doesn't have the same impact. A story about Sy's character Driss trying to repair Cluzet's character's heart with a long distance relationship leaves a much more significant mark than Driss' problems with his troublesome son or daughter. A mystery involving Driss and his daughter is cleaned up in the third act too quickly, especially for a dilemma that one would think would ultimately be harmful to the strong bond between Philippe and Driss.
A buddy comedy that skips down the beaten path, The Intouchables is the type of movie that feels good, without actually being great itself.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10