Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, Aja Naomi King, Jahi Di’Allo Winston
Runtime: 2 hrs 6 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Drug & Sexual References)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 17 January 2019
Synopsis: The Upside is director Neil Burger’s heartfelt comedy about a recently paroled ex-convict (Kevin Hart) who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a paralyzed billionaire (Bryan Cranston). Inspired by a true story, The Upside is written by Jon Hartmere, based on the hit 2011 French film The Intouchables.
A victim of the infamous Weinstein scandal, this remake of the 2011’s French box-office hit, The Intouchables was in the can for nearly two years before seeing the light of day. Nevertheless, the remake by Neil Burger (Divergent, Limitless) is still worth a watch if you have never heard or caught the original.
Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston plays a “richer than Jay-Z”, paralyzed billionaire Philip who out of curiosity hires an inexperienced parolee Dell (comedienne Kevin Hart) to be his caregiver much to the dismay of his loyal assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman). Philip the quadriplegic is tired of his life after a paragliding accident and the death of his beloved wife while Dell the ex-con is trying to put his life together and get back to his teenage son. Thus The Upside is basically a bromance between two unlikely oddballs who stick through thick and thin and subsequently develop a different perspective on their non-existent lives.
If this sounds mundane, pretentious and clichéd to you, then avoid The Upside at all costs.
Despite a runtime of slightly over two hours, the movie actually works most of the time anyway. And probably it’s because the chemistry between Cranston and Hart is remarkable. Obviously, Cranston can play to perfection in any roles he is given even with the constraints of playing a quadriplegic. The dramatic ability of Mr. Cranston is always a solid A. While some might find Hart’s usual stand-up antics or his comedy outings liked Ride Along, Central Intelligence more irritable than funny, he is actually more than decent in his first major dramatic outing. Kidman last seen in the superb Aquaman is thoroughly underused as Yvonne, the typical secretly in love with her boss female role that appears here and then. Same goes to ER’s Julianna Margulies who appeared in one miserable yet heartbreaking scene.
Again, this is not a movie that delves deep into the seriousness of being a quadriplegic, you know the emotional struggles and pain of a paralyzed patient. Again this is not a movie that shed light on the drastic income disparity of America nor the touchy racial divides between the suffering Blacks and privileged Whites. The Upside is content in delivering slapstick comedy courtesy of Dell’s joke about using a catheter and fumbling with Philip’s fancy shower kit for example and lots of light bantering between Philip and Dell about passion, art and a little about Dell’s future.
And if you believe switching hobbies can turned your lives around, Dell introduced Philip to smoking weed, hooker and Aretha Franklin while Philip introduced Dell into the world of art and opera and best of all, allowing him to drive his garage full of fancy cars. It’s strictly at times fantasy all right but Hollywood wants viewers to believe this is based on a true story.
We are not going into detail how good the original was because The Upside is actually not that bad for a Hollywood remake. It’s just that the story could potentially go further than merely scratching the surface especially the last act which sees Philip sinking deep into depression. There’re no real surprises pulled in the end just a hasty nice wrap up.
(The downside is it’s too safe and predictable otherwise it’s just another feel-good movie outing for the masses)
Review by Linus Tee