MOVIE: THE UPSIDE
STARRING: BRYAN CRANSTON; KEVIN HART; NICOLE KIDMAN
DIRECTED BY: NEIL BURGER
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Audiences might not realize, but The Upside is actually a remake of the French film The Intouchables. And although that 2011 film- starring Omar Sy and Francois Cluzet- found a strange amount of praise during its release, I can't say the same amount of love will be earned for this American go around. Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star as an unlikely pair, They are both bitter about their pasts, doubtful about their futures, and create a bond that blossoms into a delightful friendship. Director Neil Burger plays the narrative safe, with interesting casting choices along the way, making The Upside a mixed bag of mediocre. The Upside is not awful, but it's also an unnecessary remake.
This another story of opposites attracting. Del (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con, down on his luck, and doing a minimal job search to please his parole officer. Phillip (Bryan Cranston), is a wealthy businessman that became paralyzed from the neck down after a parachuting accident. Phillip's search for a new live-in assistant leads him to Del, although he's never taken care of someone and has no experience at live-in care. It is Del's forthcoming nature and honesty that intrigues Phillip, he hires him and naturally, a myriad of mishaps take place. These two will learn about each other, themselves, and audiences will feel good.
It says something that I couldn't remember The Intouchables much and sadly, the screenplay from Jon Hartmere has an even less memorable narrative. The attempt is to sprinkle in moments of Kevin Hart's style of comedy and merge it with the dramatic skills of Cranston. It's the comedic moments that constantly fall flat. The worst is a scene where Hart must replace Cranston's catheter; The comedian is so revolted by the male genitalia that he can't even say the word penis. If you thought the Ride Along actor was having a rough week with the Oscars asking him to step-down for past homophobic comments, let's just say the jokes in The Upside have already not aged well. It's when Burger injects forced fun between the two when things become strained, leaving the dramatic parts often boring and trivial.
The odd person holding the bag is Nicole Kidman. She is saddled with the role as Cranston's assistant Yvonne, who is uptight, always weary of Del's position, and the buzz kill to these guys macho fun. What The Upside truly fails to do, however, is dive into the psychology, and emotions of Cranston's role. The character made headlines this week as Cranston was asked about roles for disabled actors, and although his performance is capable, it's also taking a back seat to Kevin Hart's efforts to show off his dramatic acting skills. The various distractions going on make it impossible to care for these characters.
All in all, The Upside is a tolerable, yet forgettable film. Audience goers will undoubtedly find a few things to laugh about, see a bit of charm in a lazy subplot involving Julianna Margulies as a possible love life for Phillip, but they will also forget what they liked about it before the main course hits the table. There are a few things to enjoy about this movie, everything else? It's on the downside.
Written by: Leo Brady