March 22, 2020

“The Upside” Review: Band of Merry Remakes

Is there a point when a movie has been remade too many times in the span of only a few years?
Contrary to popular belief, Bryan Cranston is not a quadriplegic.

“The Upside” is the third remake of the 2011 French film “The Intouchables,” which is itself based on a true story. I haven’t seen either the original or the two remakes, so the story that presented itself in “The Upside” was completely new to me.

Dell (Kevin Hart) is an ex-con who’s trying to make a new life for himself out of prison; while looking for signatures for his parole sheet, he’s hired by billionaire Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) within minutes of meeting him, which baffles Dell. Phillip is paralyzed from the neck down, and as Dell takes up the job as his carer, they both learn lessons about connection and friendship.

Kevin Hart, typically a comedic actor, seems right at home in “The Upside.” Yes, there are comedy elements, but at its core, it’s a heartfelt drama, made all the better by Kevin Hart and his chemistry with Bryan Cranston. Cranston, having starred in the critically-acclaimed drama series “Breaking Bad,” is no stranger to the genre, and it really shows in “The Upside.” He’s funny when he needs to be, and serious when the story takes a turn for the dramatic. He and Kevin Hart have an undeniably electric chemistry that made for a series of truly funny and later, truly emotional moments.

The cast, while well-assembled, is not anything special.
It’s worth noting that “The Upside” doesn’t feel like a movie — it feels more like a series of vignettes. We watch Dell and Phillip go about their lives, at points with each other, and at points apart. Don’t get me wrong, every little episode was tremendously entertaining to watch, but unfortunately it feels more stitched together than it should be. This causes the plot to seem more cliché and predictable than I think it intended to be, but it doesn’t detract from the overall moviegoing experience.

Its leads are well-cast, the story is engaging from the beginning, and the message is as poignant and hard-hitting as you might expect (although a bit sickly sweet, but I’ll give it a pass for that). “The Upside” made me laugh, tear up, and left me with a satisfied feeling as I exited the theater. It’s not exactly a thrill ride, but the witty dialogue and enjoyable chemistry manage to make up for it. [Grade: B]

Director: Neil Burger
Writer: Jon Hartmere
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, Aja Naomi King
Rated: PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use
Available: Showtime
Fun Fact: Chris Tucker, Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock and Idris Elba were all considered for the role of Dell that eventually went to Kevin Hart.

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