After their international hit comedy The Intouchables, French directing duo Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache stick to a winning formula in Samba (15) **.
Again starring French comedian Omar Sy, this is another unlikely inter-racial Parisian affair to warm the unsceptical soul, only this time the crotchety guy in the wheelchair has been replaced by the comely but emotionally paralysed Charlotte Gainsbourg.
Sy plays Samba Cisse, an illegal Senegalese immigrant who has just been arrested and lined-up for deportation by the French authorities despite working various low-grade jobs in Paris for 10 years.
Gainsbourg plays Alice, a wealthy businesswoman recuperating from executive stress by doing charity work at the airport immigration centre (like you do…).
The pair, whose likeable performances keep the film afloat, are drawn together amid a network of storylines and emotional climaxes designed to reflect the secret, underground economy of the big city, a warren of false ID cards, desperate labour queues and constant hassle with the cops.
There are also several over-cute subplots, one involving Tahar Rahim pretending to be a Brazilian so he can get more girls. There’s one awful scene where he does a Coke ad- style striptease for office workers while cleaning the windows.
Like The Intouchables, there are various other musical moments too, using Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley and, as previously, Earth, Wind and Fire, crassly suggesting soul and disco are what bring black and white people together.
So while seeking to remain optimistic while hinting at the harsh, hidden reality of immigrant life, the film can’t help also being patronising, glib and simplistic, a strange, uneasy Parisian mix of Richard Curtis and Ken Loach.