“The Intouchables” opens with a tease: a young Senegal-born driver expertly speeds through Paris late at night. His grey-bearded passenger looks like a world-weary Robert De Niro. Cops give chase. In pursuit of a pair of operatives in a thriller? Most of the uplifty plot by co-writers and co-directors Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache goes back to the meet-cute of Philippe (Francois Cluzet), the very wealthy quadriplegic in the backseat, and Driss (Omar Sy), the unqualified ex-con he hires as his live-in caretaker at his palatial residence. It is too easy, if necessary, to tally all the tropes of race and class that are bundled into this odd-buddy premise and its payoff. Driss goes unquietly to the opera. Thinks “Berlioz” only names a housing project. Mocks pricey abstract paintings, then splatters one of his own that Philippe tricks a dealer into buying for 11,000 euros. Culture rubs off uptight Philipe onto uncouth Driss. Both become better men in the bargain. Driss mentors his widower employer in courting a pen pal and in disciplining his bratty adopted daughter. He also hips the staff to Earth, Wind and Fire. What is amazing is how easily this fact-based fable entertains. How blithely it paraglides over outcrops and downdrafts of political correctness. As if to shrug off the finders of offending clichés, the end credit’s home-movie clips of the original duo serve as a ‘c’est la vie’; as you can see for yourselves. With Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot, Clotilde Mollet, Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi, Cyril Mendy, Christian Ameri. 113m. (Bill Stamets)
“The Intouchables” opens Friday at River East, Landmark Century and Century Evanston.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.