Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart star in “The Upside” which is based on a true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo. It is also a remake of the 2011 French film, “The Intouchables”. I have never seen the original film, but the American remake has had a rocky journey. Kevin Hart was cast back in 2014 but with multiple changes in the cast, writers and directors, production didn’t begin until 2017. Here we are, two years later and the-end-result is merely, ok.
The story centers on Philip (Cranston), a wealthy quadriplegic who has had just about enough with the hand he has been dealt in life. Because his assistant/caring friend Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) won’t honor his DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), he purposely hires the worse candidate for the job as his caregiver. That would be Dell (Hart), an ex-con who has never taken care of anyone in his life. This includes his own son. Phillip is instantly amused by Dell who mistakenly popped into the job interview, thinking it was for a janitor position. Needless-to-say, Yvonne things this is the worst idea ever.
Aside from the numerous mistakes Dell makes at the start, he begins to get a hang of the duties he must perform and the two develop an interesting friendship. The problem is that “The Upside” is 95% clichés and feels more like a paint-by-numbers story than something that is true. We get the cookie cutter bigoted neighbor (Tate Donovan) that doesn’t want Dell living in the upscale condo. There is the token drug dealers that Dell wants to keep away from his son and there is Dell’s ex who isn’t given much here to do at all.
What keeps things even remotely interesting is the chemistry between Cranston and Hart. They do a good job playing off each other and thankfully, Hart keeps his character mostly grounded. A little of the comedic actor can go a long way and I am glad he didn’t play this off as if it was full on comedy. Kidman is also quite likable here. I just wish “The Upside” felt even a little authentic, a similar issue I had with “Green Book”, which I still wound up loving. In the end, if you are a fan of the two leads, you might find something to like in “The Upside”, but don’t expect to get all that emotionally invested.
By: Marc Ferman