THE UPSIDE – A Review by Gadi Elkon

The spruced up remake of French comedy hit, The Intouchables, pits the wit of Bryan Cranston with the zany antics of Kevin Hart.  Is it worth your time and money?

Here is my review of THE UPSIDE.

Director Neil Burger’s The Upside is a heartfelt comedy about a recently paroled ex-convict, Dell (Kevin Hart), who strikes up an unusual and unlikely friendship with a quadriplegic billionaire, Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston). From worlds apart, Dell and Phillip form an unlikely bond, bridging their differences and gaining invaluable wisdom in the process, giving each man a renewed sense of passion for all of life’s possibilities. THE UPSIDE also stars Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, and Aja Naomi King.

The Intouchables is a more complete and in-depth piece of filmmaking.  The French film’s take on race and the economic difference of our main characters is much more subtle and realistic.  With that said, the Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart pairing is completely understandable.  There is legit chemistry and Cranston gets to play a lot more with the Phillip role.  It’s this increase in the emotional turmoil we witness mainly through Cranston that the movie does hit a nice connection with the audience.  Cast two different actors and my review would simply say go see the original French film.  Granted I hope you will dive in that film as well as watching this one.  But I do believe you can feel comfortable that Hart and Cranston will give you enough laughs and moments of zen to really enjoy this movie.  The added 10 minutes of film also allow for a bit more fulfilled closure to all of the characters stories.

Now there is a vast difference in the R rating of the original and the PG-13 of this one.  I think the toning down and more physical zany nature of The Upside actually enhances it’s connecting ability to the audience.  You have a chance to at least laugh at the obviously racist and sexist elements that are more tongue-in-cheek than real.  This is also the major flaw of the film.  The hard hitting qualities that so separate our leads aren’t a commentary asking for change but just a setup to a joke.  This movie is much more Trading Places than lets say Green Book or Hidden Figures.  Haha instead of uplifting and moving film that aims to shed a damning light on the world’s inaccurate ability to forever create division because of race, sex or economic difference.  A convict is always a convict and a rich man is always a rich man.  The irony in those both being false are never broached but rather slightly mentioned and than clouded with the loud antics of emotional withdrawal our characters can muster.

It’s the start of a new year and so if you’re looking for something simple that will make you laugh this is your first real hit of 2019.  If you want a more thoughtful endearing look at the unique odd couple of Phillip and Dell than find The Intouchables.  I do want to point out the nice cameo as Dell’s intelligent son Anthony played by Jahi Di’Allo Winston.  It is a limited role for the young actor but he is a talent to keep in your lexicon for later.  He was utterly brilliant in the Netflix show EVERYTHING SUCKS.  Sadly the streaming giants cancelled the well written show about the tremendous war that is young love.  Honestly skip both films and check out that show, it’s only one season.

For more information – THE UPSIDE.

Directed by Neil Burger
Written By Jon Hartmere based on original screenplay by Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano from the autobiography by Philippe Pozzo di Borgo.
Rated PG-13
Selig Rating C+
Running Time 2hr 5min
Drama / Comedy
In Theaters Everywhere January 11, 2018
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Julianna Margulies, Aja Naomi King, Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Tate Donovan.

The Selig Rating Scale:

A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

 

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