A version of this review appeared in The Age, October 25, 2012.
Based on an alleged true story, this cartoonish French comedy-drama has been a hit across Europe, suggesting that many people are reassured by the notion that a rich white man and a poor black man can, after all, be friends. The rich white man in question is Philippe (Francois Cluzet) paralysed from the neck down in a paragliding accident while still mourning the death of his wife. In need of a new carer, he impulsively hires Driss (Omar Sy), a wisecracking layabout originally from Senegal, who has only fronted up to the job interview so he can collect his dole.
These two are a classic odd couple. Philippe loves Fabergé eggs and classical music, while Driss is more into smoking pot and listening to Earth, Wind & Fire. All the same they become inseparable, and we're treated to endless scenes where Driss learns about high culture or simply swaggers around making a fool of himself, while Philippe chortles discreetly, baring his teeth.
As directors, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano don't do much beyond providing a clean-looking, well-lit setting for the contrasting lead performances. Cluzet has to convey everything with his face and voice, while the charismatic Sy acts with his whole body, crouching forward and swaying from side to side like a boxer. Their chemistry makes The Intouchables fun for a while, but the humour of Nakache and Toledano's script tends to be more obnoxious than winning – and just like in American “bromances”, the female characters are pushed to the margins throughout.