The film, "The Intouchables," is bracing, uplifting and a triumph of the human spirit.

Plus, it's darn funny.

Philippe (Fran├žois Cluzet) is a very wealthy Paris widower who is a tetraplegic following an accident. Philippe hires Driss (Omar Sy), a very poor, street-smart Senegales to be his live-in primary care-giver.

Driss has a strong personality and commands respect.

Philippe likes that. He doesn't want pity.

Inside the gated mansion, Magalie (Audrey Fleurot), Philippe's very stern secretary, rebuffs Driss's overtures. Yvonne (Anne Le Ny) is Philippe's efficient but friendly household manager.

While the story employs the "fish out of water" plot, it does so in an insightful, intelligent and refreshing manner.

There are also elements of Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" and "The Prince and the Pauper"; the American comedy movie "Trading Places" (1983); the Neil Simon comedy play, "The Odd Couple," and the French film about a paralyzed person and his caretaker, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (2007).

Co-writers and co-directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano have fashioned a conventional screenplay and film to tell an unconventional story. The filming is straightforward, with few gimmicks except for the effective use of split-screen images.

"The Intouchables" is based on the book, "You Changed My Life," by Abdel Sellou, which is said to be an account of a true story.

While each of the main characters is set up as a stereotype to be broken, "The Intouchables" does get in touch with our curiosity and compassion.

The film allows the viewer to see the world through the eyes of the paralyzed Philippe, for whom most of life's possibilities have been shut down, and through the eyes of Driss, for whom life is an endless series of possibilities to be exploited.

This is no more symbolized than with Philippe's Maserati Quattroporte, which he deems impractical, but which Driss commandeers as their transport, rather than a more practical person with disabilities-equipped van.

As Philippe, Francois Cluzet, who, when he has a beard, resembles Robert De Niro, and who, when clean-shaven, resembles Dustin Hoffman, does a lot with a role that requires him to keep 90 percent of his body immobile. His twinkling eyes and impish grin make up the difference.

As Driss, Omar Sy is a powerful, dynamic, even frightening presence with a great reservoir of life and humanity.

What make "The Intouchables" so enjoyable is the interplay between Cluzet and Sy and their growing friendship, respect, and understanding. It unfolds with lots of humor, but with an underlying theme of taking responsibility for one's own emotions and decisions, with which Philippe and Driss come to terms.

"The Intouchables," one of the most successful films ever at the French box office, has grossed some $360 million worldwide, is the most popular French-made film since "Amelie," and is likely to receive several Oscar nominations. Don't miss it.

"The Intouchables," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent Or Adult Guardian) for language and some drug use; Genre: Comedy, Drama; Run Time: 1 hr., 52 mins.; Distributed by The Weinstein Company.

Credit Readers Anonymous: "The Intouchables" soundtrack includes Bach, Vivaldi, Chopin, Schubert, Handel, Telemann, Rimski-Korsakov and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Box Office, Aug. 17: "The Expendables 2" opened at No. 1 with $28.7 million, and dispensed with "The Bourne Legacy," dropping to No. 2, $17 million, $69.5 million, two weeks, and keeping "ParaNorman" opening at No. 3, with $14 million.

4. "The Campaign," $13.3 million, $51.6 million, two weeks; 5. "Sparkle," $12 million, opening; 6. "The Dark Knight Rises," $11.1 million, $409.9 million, five weeks; 7. "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," $10.9 million, $15.1 million, opening Aug. 15; 8. "Hope Springs," $9.1 million, $35 million, two weeks; 9. "Diary of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days," $3.8 million, $38.7 million, three weeks; 10. "Total Recall," $3.5 million, $51.7 million, three weeks; 22. "The Intouchables," $375,000, $6.9 million, 13 weeks, 194 screens

Unreel: Aug. 24:

"Premium Rush," PG-13: A bicycle messenger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) picks up an envelope he wishes he hadn't in the action-thriller.

"The Apparition," PG-13: A college experiment goes awry (something left in the dorm refrigerator from last semester, perhaps?) and, soon, a supernatural presence haunts a couple (Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan).

"Hit and Run," R: A former getaway car driver (Bradley Cooper) jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan status to help his girlfriend (Kristen Bell). Well, wouldn't you?

Read previous movie reviews by Paul Willistein at the Times-News web site, tnonline.com where the movie reviews are archived. Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com [1] and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes