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Reviews Of French Buddy Comedy "Intouchables" Surface (Not Good) + Watch Star Omar Cy Dance To Earth Wind & Fire In New Clip

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 5, 2011 12:32 PM
26 Comments
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It hasn't arrived in the USA yet, but the film that's currently lighting France's box office on fire, and attracting heaps of praise and acclaim (co-star Omar Cy is being hailed by some in France as a blossoming black cinema icon who might be on track to win the French equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor next February) has been seen and reviewed by some stateside outlets; also, one of our readers who lives in Europe recently saw the film, and she shared her thoughts with me via email, giving me the OK to post here.

I'm talking about the new French comedy titled Intouchables (Untouchables) which Harvey Weinstein and his Weinstein Company have acquired both stateside distribution rights to the original film, AND English-language remake rights.

The film, which is said to be based on a funny and moving true story, centers on the relationship between a wealthy white aristocrat who becomes a quadriplegic after a paragliding accident, and the young, poor "street-tough" black man he hires to take care of him.

Omar Sy stars as our "street-tough" dude, Driss, while François Cluzet (one of France's movie stars), plays Philippe the rich quadriplegic.

I've already expressed my reservations with regards to the film, even though I haven't seen it yet; but based on what I've learned about the original story thus far, there's nothing particular fresh about the basic buddy/comedy concept, and one can't help but instantly see some familiar character archetypes here, specifically where the black man is concerned. And I'm wondering what the Weinstein Company sees in it, and how they might translate it in an American remake if Harvey will stick to the original story and characters - the right white quadriplegic and the poor, street smart, black tough guy - or revamp the entire idea).

And, unfortunately, the reviews I've read thus far, one from Variety, one from The Hollywood Reporter, and a third from an S&A reader, don't do much to change my expectations of the film.

First, the bad, from Variety:

Though never known for their subtlety, French co-helmers/scripters Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache have never delivered a film as offensive as “Untouchable,” which flings about the kind of Uncle Tom racism one hopes has permanently exited American screens. The Weinstein Co., which has bought remake rights, will need to commission a massive rewrite to make palatable this cringe-worthy comedy about a rich, white quadriplegic hiring a black man from the projects to be his caretaker, exposing him to “culture” while learning to loosen up. Sadly, this claptrap will do boffo Euro biz.

From The Hollywood Reporter, which wasn't as harsh: 

The King's Speech meets Driving Miss Daisy in Untouchables, a loosely based-on-fact French tale of a quadriplegic white millionaire given a new lease of life by his uncouth black caretaker. Corny, calculating and commercial... Driss's characterization veers perilously close to caricature at certain junctures, most notably when he displays his energetic dance-moves to liven up Philippe's stuffy birthday party. (The real Driss, we eventually discover, is Arab rather than black.) The racial angle is often clumsily dramatized, as when Elisa makes an implausibly stupid remark about how things are done "in your country." The chap may have been born in Senegal, but is unmistakeably a home-grown son of the banlieues.

The Hollywood Reporter review does praise the performances of both leads.

And finally, from an S&A reader, which is the most positive of the 3:

Well, you'll hate it. It's a Magical Negro Driving Monsieur Daisy film. I know that you would role your eyes at the dance scene set to Earth Wind and Fire's Boogie Wonderland. That said, I did enjoy it even though seeing it made me realize how much my French sucks. My husband, whom I dragged from his sick bed and who did not know that he was going to see a movie in French, enjoyed it too. He thought it was the best of French humor: chock full of every stereotype, but done in an unforced way. (His words, not mine.)... Omar Sy was quite engaging. His smile lit up the screen. I'm wondering if he'll be able to cross the pond like Djimoun Hounsou. I was trying to imagine who would play his role in the American version. Will Smith springs to mind, but he's too old and he already played Bagger Vance... In fact, all of the performances were good. I would have liked to have seen more about Driss' homelife. This is where our French failed us. We couldn't figure out what exactly was going on with his brother at the end. That was the fault of our lousy French, not the film maker's. Still, it was enjoyable, but I can't wait to read how your readers rip it apart!... Yeah, it was a feel-good movie. Was it on your site or Deadline that I read that Intouchables was the Titanic of France, i.e., people were seeing it repeatedly? The theater yesterday was about 60% full, but my friends who saw it last week said that it was packed and the line for the next showing was around the corner. around the corner.

So there ya have it... like I said, I'm not at all encouraged. 

A stateside release is expected, since the Weinsteins picked up distribution rights to the film; though I don't know when that will happen, or if it will happen. They also purchased remake rights, so it could be a case of them buying the distribution rights to the film so that no one else can release it in the USA, with the main goal being to produce a remake of it, and release that as an *original* American work. 

I'm looking at that Variety review and sighing at the part where the writer says the Weinsteins would have to commission a "massive rewrite" to make the "cringe-worthy" comedy palatable to stateside audiences. I certainly hope so! 

By the way, the dance scene mentioned in 2 of the above reviews has surfaced in a clip on YouTube, which I came across yesterday - the one in which Omar Cy's Driss character dances to Earth Wind & Fire's Booogie Wonderland. Watch it below; and underneath that, check out the film's trailer if you haven't yet:

Here's the new clip:

And here's the first full-length trailer below, which is in French, without subtitles. Sorry... though I think the images tell the tale:

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26 Comments

  • Elsa | May 1, 2012 8:34 AMReply

    Actually the only ones who have the right to comment and/or discuss this subject are the members of any minority group. Those are the ones who actually suffer racism worldwide on a daily basis. The ones who feel it in daily life. And because of this experience only they are entitled to give their opinion. Everyone else should refrain from making any comments since they lack the personal experience of being reduced to nothing but a non-human entity.

    The movie might seem joyfull but be aware of the hidden message. Hide in the open! You almost have to be blind not to see it. I have never seen as many prejudices together in one movie with no other purpose than to underline them.

  • Georgia | April 9, 2012 10:42 AMReply

    Political correctness is so restrictive-and not always to the point... Read my review of the film here if you're interested- I mention the whole 'racist' side of the film
    http://www.unsungfilms.com/?p=4282

  • J.Doe | April 5, 2012 4:59 AMReply

    Regardless of whether I agree with these reviews or not, what's with the remake mentality? If a movie is 'worthy' of 'a Hollywood remake', why not just go see the movie itself? Perhaps in some cases a remake can be justified because film technology has progressed in such a way that the story can now be better told, but for films that don't have special effects at their core, I don't think I have seen much remakes that can even compare to their originals.

  • Michel Benedetti | March 29, 2012 11:04 AMReply

    I am really amazed how American critics failed to understand this movie. Especially the author of Variety seems to have brainwashed by political correctness during his entire lifetime. How can he use the word Uncle Tom racisms for a movie which is in a totally different cultural setting. You may say that the movie sometimes goes a bit too far with stereotypes, but that's how comedies work! Look at classic comedies of Shakespeare or Moliere. You got stereotypes all over the place. There was a time when American comedies were made to entertain. Nowadays, it's all about avoiding 1 million topics and don't you ever say this or that and not hurting animals and respecting the environment by using recyclable props and including an Asian, black and/or gay person into the script of EVERY MOVIE OR TV SERIES. I won't be waiting for the American to produce a new censored script ad usum delphini (i.e. for the brainwashed). Because I know it's going to be painful, boring and totally embarassing.

  • Jim | March 4, 2012 2:53 AMReply

    Seriously, I'm from Austria but I think it's pathetic to see this comment from variety.

    This movie is amazing ! this film is number 1 in my country (Austria) since many weeks, it was also number 1 in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg...in fact in Germany almost 6 million people saw this movie and "intouchables" is in the top in the German Box office since 7 weeks. The US/Hollywood movies failed in Europe against this French film don't be so jealous...
    By the way, Americans speaking about racism...LOL such an hypocrite country...
    Anyway, 19 million French saw this movie, it is a huge success you can tell what you want in the US...the fans and the people who made this movie don't care.

  • Ron | January 15, 2012 11:03 AMReply

    I saw the film and I'm from germany. So no huge black/white background here. I would also call myself hard to entertain or made laugh with a movie. This one was a blast. I laughed so hard and it felt very good. Through the film I was not looking for racism or so, I just enjoyed the film. A good think was I did not knew beforehand a trailer or plot or anything. If that film will have a remake to please the US audience then I just call that stupid. There is a good example (read the comments) what comes out when you do such stupid stuff. "Death at the funeral" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795368/ and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1321509/

    My point is. I just enjoyed the film very very much. The film had cost 10 Mio EURO and has already gathered 150 Mio. EUR so far. Just translate it and bring it to the US cinemas would do the job.

    Btw. The white aristocrat looks like Dustin Hoffman. :-)

    If there

  • Marie | January 14, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    Don't be jealous because France has succeeded, for once, in making a tremendous film based on human values and french traditions. And contrary to what I've read here, there is nothing that has been done in the USA like this movie. For once, the French have surpassed you, so deal with it ! :)

  • Daniela | January 6, 2012 10:56 AMReply

    Well, you should all stop pointing fingers and just see the movie!
    In my opinion the movie is really awesome and at some parts emotionalizing, it gives the viewer the chance to see the both sides of their life's and how their differences can really approach them.

  • Laura | December 29, 2011 3:16 PMReply

    If this is based on a true story, why couldn't the keep the character that Omar Sy played Middle Eastern/North African? Just wondering.

  • Caroline | December 29, 2011 2:27 PMReply

    Ok, let's try again... ;-) I've read many articles as well as comments on this film and having lived in the US, I can understand some people's reactions with what they consider a "Black/White", or "rich/poor" kind of stereotyped comedy. But having seen this film, I disagree with them. I have to say that I couldn't care less about Omar Sy's color. Of course the two characters are from two very different social classes but that's what the real people are from and the color is not the main subject of the film. When I see them, I see two personalities facing each other and not two colors. Some people tend to forget that one character is quadriplegic and that the film also deals with his relationship to "healthy" people. I still remember something Philip says about Driss " he shows no pity", and that's what Philip wants. The "dance scene" that shocked some critics is not about a black man showing a white man how to have fun and demonstrating his dancing style, coming from his cultural background... Blah blah blah... If you watch it carefully, look at the succession of shots and how the camera focuses on the feet! Some "commiserating" people could say "how does he dare dance and have so much fun in front of a quadriplegic man!!" But that's what Philip wants, and that's what the other people around him can't manage to give him. A sense of normalcy, and no pity. We see this in other passages of the film, with Driss' jokes (which I'm not going to tell here). As a spectator, I sometimes, out of political correctness, hesitated to laugh out loud as some of Driss' remarks could be seen as crual. I would also like to say that as it's a true story, it adds to the feelings you have while watching it. The ones who lived the story supported the film, and that's enough of a testimony for me. I also don't agree with some people who say the characters' relationship is a one-way street, because they clearly both learn from each other. Finally, the last reason why I loved it, more than any other comedies I've seen in a long time is that if I sometimes laughed AT the characters' antics, I mainly laughed WITH them. It was not sarcastic, nor ridiculing, but just wholeheartedly funny. So my message is just "give it a chance and see by yourself!"

  • Caroline | December 29, 2011 1:36 PMReply

    Hi, I'm French and I've read m

  • Karin | December 25, 2011 3:18 PMReply

    I agree with Andy and many others who posted here, who saw, liked and understood the movie. I've seen the movie and I'm still searching for the racism ... don't find it. Its a story about 2 guys from different sides of life and different cultures, which has nothing to do with black and white or whatever you'll see in it. The movie is inspired, not based, on a real story and its full of emotion and humor .. which is european humor that's maybe why in the US no one understands it.
    It has nothing to do with beeing 'thick skinned', we, here in Europe, are very well aware of racism and its results and the majority rejects racism. But we are not suffering of paranoia and are still able to enjoy a good story. In France they say: il ne faut pas chercher midi à 14.00. Happy Translating

  • Andy | December 11, 2011 4:00 PMReply

    Maybe I am just thick skinned, but I do not see the racism in Untouchables. Perhaps it is only there if you are looking for it? Maybe the accusation says more about the accuser than the accused?

  • 506code | December 9, 2011 8:11 AMReply

    Hi, I'm french. Iwent here because I listened Variety interpretation of the movie on the radio and I get quiet astonished... I disagree with this view. First for those who say "American audiences.U.S. audiences have watched this kind of film for decades. We've seen Morgan Freeman, Will Smith and Whoopee Goldberg play this roll.", I'm sorry but I can't compare Made In America with Untouchables. Where did you see racism please tell me?? And I may recognize that it could be a little bit cliché, but knowing that it is from a true story it makes it special, and not cliché. I've heard something about a "monkey who is here to amused the rich guy" or something.... What?? Did we see the same movie? I d'idn't see it as " one is black the other is white, one is rich the other is poor..." I remember a very nice and generous friendship.What I've seen is not the color but the beautiful, straight and simple relationship between different persons, and how they different personality and social background brings something to the other.

  • Stefan | December 8, 2011 10:02 PMReply

    In your own words:

    "I've already expressed my reservations with regards to the film, even though I haven't seen it yet..."

    That says a lot about the value of your "review" ......

  • Naima | December 8, 2011 7:41 AMReply

    John (Felix), I'm French (of Algerian descent) and I agree with these "American" reviews of Intouchables. I find it sad but yet not surprising that the issue of racial stereotypes contained in Intouchables had to be raised by foreigners (in this instance Americans) and was never mentioned in any French review that I read. I find Intouchables at best extremely patronising (the Black guy is reduced to his body, he's strong, he's got a big smile on his face throughout the film, he can dance amazingly well, he tries in vain to sleep with a white woman, he's street wise...) and at worst verging on racism. When I saw the film, I said to a friend that it's a bad version of a film with Eddie Murphy in it that could have been made 20 years ago. And the most disturbing was the consensus around the film in France (which speaks volume). I watched it in a fully packed cinema in Paris and the members of the audience applauded at the end of the film. For me it says: "this is Black people as WE like them".
    I would lie if I said I didn't laugh at times and I also think the two lead actors did a great job but I very much welcome these criticisms of the film and I just wish they would have been made by some French critics in the first place.

  • Felix | December 6, 2011 10:46 AMReply

    That isn't the problem. This review is discrediting "Intouchables" which has been viewed by over 10 million people in France. Trust me French audiences are not easy to satisfy and yet it received a huge amount of praise. Why would that be if this movie was cliché? I guess Americans have a different viewpoint to the rest of the world or I must just be a commoner.

  • Felix | December 5, 2011 5:15 PMReply

    Wow...you Americans clearly don't get the concept of this movie...there's nothing racist in it and it's funny how you'v written a pointless review based on what other (American) media have stated. Learn french, watch the movie and get out of you Americanist way of viewing things in a monotone light!
    John. (Ireland)

  • -G- | May 11, 2012 5:15 AM

    To Felix: The problem is the difference in culture between Europe and the US. In the US they make a big deal about the fact that the character coming from the unfortunate background is black, whilst in Europe people watching this film see through the color of the skin. This is not to say that people are more racist in the US, it is simply a fact that due to historical and societal differences the sensitivities are different.

    To Mark: If I adopt your view every film is a cliche. Action movies are all about the misunderstood hero winning. Romantic movies are all about the two people who should have never met meeting each other, Thrillers are all about some secret/unknown/mysterious entity or force menacing a person or a group of people. It is exactly the point of one of the US reviews that the real life character is in fact not black, but arab, which should be telling you that the intent of the movie is not to extrapolate the difference between black and white, rich and poor, or whatever.

    This is truly a movie about two people who are culturally very different, who are both stuck in their lives, who both seem to be unhappy, finding eachother in an absolutely longshot kind of strange way, getting to know eachother and becoming friends in the process and helping eachother in all the ways friends help eachother.

    If you are focusing on the fact that one of these guys is black and the other is white you are missing the point of this movie. It could have been two white guys, it could have been two black guys, heck, it could have been two asian guys, it does not matter for the sake of what story the movie is trying to tell. But again because of the cultural differences some will never get past the black-white pairing and will simply brush it off as another one of those movies.

  • Geneva Girl | December 6, 2011 7:02 AM

    Felix, this kind of movie has been done over and over in the States. It might be novel to European audiences, but it's been played out in the US.

    Mark, the only famous black French I actor I can think of is Djimon Hounsou and he's famous in the States.

    JMAC, I saw the movie in Switzerland.

  • Mark | December 5, 2011 11:39 PM

    BTW, I understand that Omar Sy's acclaim is a giant step for a black actor in France. Although I've seen successful Arab/North African actors in many films, I can't recall learning of or hearing about a similarly successful black French actor. Can you tell me about any other famous black French actors?

  • Mark | December 5, 2011 11:36 PM

    Felix,

    Looking at the clips, the film just seems very cliche to American audiences.U.S. audiences have watched this kind of film for decades. We've seen Morgan Freeman, Will Smith and Whoopee Goldberg play this roll. It just seems like the same kind of film about a black person who comes into the life of an unhappy white person and makes him/her grow or feel better about him/herself. Do you think that we have not seen films where the uncouth colored person (black or Latino) gets a job working for the rich/cultured older white person and learns about the beauty of high culture? It's just stale.

    We even get repackaged where the wonderful white person (or upper class person of color) goes to a poor neighborhood and teaches the brown folks how to succeed while battling the corrupt system.

    By the way, didn't the old rap group the Fat Boys do a film like this called the Disorderlies?
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092897/

    Plot: Three bumbling orderlies are hired to take care of an old rich man. Humorous mayhem follows.

  • JMac | December 5, 2011 8:31 PM

    Here's another tip: Read the article in full, particularly (1) the first sentence: "It hasn't arrived in the USA yet...." and (2) the third review excerpt from an S&A reader who saw the film in France. You're welcome.

  • Africa is a Country | December 5, 2011 4:07 PMReply

    My French Algerian connection as well as novelist Abdourahmane Waberi (definitely not a push over) had the opposite reaction in a post for us: http://bit.ly/uc9hRO

  • Jug | December 5, 2011 12:51 PMReply

    All dance, is Michael Jackson LOL

  • ENNA | December 12, 2011 5:45 PM

    I think black&white-relations obsessed Americans are robbing the disabeld of the only worthy debate this film talks about : disabeld people's place and image in our countries, whether rich or not. The film also speaks about what happens when different social backgrounds meet. Hey, people, will you please realize that in real life Driss is called Abdel and is of Arab origin? Colour is irrelevant in that regard.
    Critics from across the Atlantic get stuffy because they don't like the way Driss dances. Well, in France, half of the coloured people are African-born, go back to Africa quite regularly, love dancing and are proud of it too! Maybe African-Americans have just with the time and the contact of the rest of Americans gotten a little tight-assed.
    Or am I being too cheeky?
    Just one more thing, besides French, that you should maybe learn before seing the film (the first one, not the remake) is irony. Many things, that have seemed unacceptable in this film to American audience, are absolutely unacceptable. The film is only ironic about it, which is a means of comic often used in France.
    But, sure, you'd never know..
    As for the comparison with Obama, you should ask Obama himself if he feels hurt that an uncouth suburban dude may be compared with him. After all, what the lovely ginger girl meant was only that Driss looked handsome.
    I really think a few people have complicated and self-centered ways of seing films. When all this film really talks about is how you see others.

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