Treat or trite – the French blockbuster dividing opinion
You can't help but be impressed by the statistics behind this French-language juggernaut, which has been conquering the global box office for more than a year.
With $350 million in the kitty so far, it's a bona fide blockbuster that has even outstripped Harry Potter in some countries. One of those crowd-pleasing, word-of-mouth hits that prompts dysenteric internet gush containing any or all of the phrases "life-changing", "uplifting" and "inspirational", Untouchable is undeniably well-crafted entertainment.
But you don't get a hit of this magnitude by challenging anyone's belief systems, and for every punter who's charmed by its gentle culture clash comedy another will find this loosely fact-based drama excruciatingly patronising, sanitised and politically timid.
The opening scenes give a fair indication of what to expect and might be characterised as "Driving Mr. Daisy (At Excessive and Dangerous Speeds)". In extended flashback, we then meet impoverished ex-con Driss (Omar Sy), who has no expectation of employment and just wants someone to sign a form affirming that he's been for a job interview so he can collect his benefits. But paraplegic Parisian millionaire Philippe (Francois Cluzet) is fed up with pitying and patronising applicants for the role of his live-in carer and impulsively hires blunt Driss instead. So begins a trite odd couple relationship comedy in which the lovably vulgar black youth loosens up stiff, formal whitey by busting disco dancefloor moves, delivering earthy relationship advice, super-charging his wheelchair and sparking up spliffs. That'll be Eddie Murphy for the feeble US remake, then.
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None of this is the fault of the stars. The ever-excellent Francois Cluzet does his best in a necessarily restricted role, though disability rights campaigners might be forgiven for wondering whether there really wasn't a genuinely disabled actor capable of playing the part. Omar Sy, last seen in Micmacs, is also an engaging performer who brings to life the funniest scenes – such as the moment when Driss bursts out laughing at the opera. Interestingly, the real "Driss" was Arabic, which presumably proved inconvenient for a film that hinges on funky homeboy cliché.