The Upside (PG-13)

Adapted from Philippe Pozzo di Borgo’s autobiographical work, directed by Neil Burger, starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, The Upside tells the story of an unlikely relationship between a wealthy, successful paraplegic (Cranston) and ne’er-do-well ex-convict (Hart). The wealthy, successful dude is white and the ex-convict is black. It’s sort of a role reversal from Green Book (my review in the link) where the white dude was the thug and the black guy, the sophisticated one. I would say it’s too soon on the heels of a black guy/white guy movie, but I’ll allow both because each is based on a true story.

Compared to the original French film, The Intouchables, The Upside is a watered down, inferior version of the film for certain. The original won seven or so international film awards. I doubt The Upside is winning anything (written weeks before any nominations were revealed). This is the case most times when great (or even good) foreign films and/or television shows are adapted into an “Americanized” version. This is the very reason that even with Tom Hanks attached to the project, I am not particularly looking forward to the Americanization of A Man Called Ove (my review in the link). So, what I won’t do is compare the two because there is no comparison. I’ll look at The Upside for what it is and recommend you see the original and judge for yourself.

The Upside is a cute, funny, safe, middle-of-the-road, non-offensive, formulaic movie that almost anyone can enjoy (except those who’ve seen the original, loved it, know how highly acclaimed it is and can’t help but compare the two films – or some miserable soul who isn’t happy unless they’re complaining about something. You know the one. The one who whines about Hollywood not having original ideas and being a remake machine. Well, here’s an original story. A remake, but nonetheless, an original story.). Bryan Cranston does what he does and he does it well, as usual. Kevin Hart does a really good job with this role. (Just don’t compare him to the 6′ 2¾” Omar Sy, who starred in the same role in the original. I know I said I wouldn’t compare but this was one helluva glaring and hilarious difference between characters.)

The screen play is very well balanced. The Upside never gets too sappy, too preachy or pretentious. It’s a very comfortable movie in that way. The heavier parts are still light enough to allow for the humor and the humor is subtle enough to allow for the gentler moments without any of it feeling forced.  Kevin Hart gets to show a bit more range than he has in the past as this non-judgmental caretaker who educates others on how to be respectful to disabled individuals along the way. He and Cranston play extremely well together. The jokes are frequent and well distributed, and most importantly, they are actually funny. There are highs and lows, moments of triumph, moments of defeat and it’s all wrapped up in a tidy bow at the end. I didn’t mind the tidy bow at all. It’s just a sweet little feel-good film.

The Upside earned 7.5 bloops out of 10. It is a solidly good movie that is enjoyable and absolutely worth seeing. I stop short of calling it “great” because it’s not unlike many movies we’ve seen before in structure. The premise feels too familiar. I can’t say it’s not to be missed because I think you’ll be able to get over it if you miss it. When I use the term “don’t miss it” I usually mean “don’t miss seeing this movie in a theater,” and if you insist on seeing it in a theater you can go to the matinee. There is some nice cinematography and set design here, but The Upside doesn’t really require a theater view to be enjoyed. Streaming should`be equally satisfying.

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1   =   worst ever, avoid at all cost
2   =   very bad, forget about it!
3   =   poor movie, not recommended
4   =   not good, even for free – NO!
5   =   so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6   =   not bad, could have been better
7   =   good movie, worth seeing
8   =   great movie, don’t miss it!
9   =   excellent movie, a must see!
10 =   a masterpiece, go see it now!

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