Tuesday, June 19, 2012


2011, France, directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano

I found the basic plotline -- exuberant black man from the banlieue gives wealthy, quadriplegic wealthy white man new reason to live, often by mugging within an inch of his life -- rather discomfiting, and the fact that the tale is ostensibly based in fact doesn't really function as a saving grace, not least because the model for the black character was Algerian, and considerably more rough-edged than his screen incarnation. The film tries to garner some credit from filming in the banlieue itself, though its attempts to add a layer of grit flounder when the crowded public housing projects are used as just another source of comedy.

Trading Places covered a surprising amount of the same ground with a good deal more perceptiveness nearly thirty years ago; Omar Sy is as magnetic here, though, as Eddie Murphy was in his prime, and I hope that Sy gets some better outlets for his charm in his subsequent projects (there are, admittedly, several genuinely funny sequences, particularly when the film emphasizes Sy's lack of sentimentality rather than his background, and François Cluzet makes for a fine foil). No matter how good they may be, Sy's future films are unlikely to be near as successful, of course -- this is now France's second-most successful homegrown hit of all time, on the heels of yet another odd-couple comedy, as reliable a genre as they come in terms of the French box office. 

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States