Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston reinterpret famed French film
The Santa Clara
January 31, 2019
Money can’t buy everything—but it can buy a couple hours of an enjoyable Kevin Hart comedy.
“The Upside” tells the story of an extremely wealthy quadriplegic named Phillip (Bryan Cranston) and his unlikely life assistance worker, Dell (Kevin Hart). Though a bit longer than necessary and predictable in plot, “The Upside” ekes out some genuine laughs and heartfelt lessons about friendship, courage and recovery.
The movie is a remake of 2011 French film “The Intouchables” based on the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgoand and his ex-con caretaker Driss. “The Intouchables” became the biggest foreign film in French history, and inspired Indian and Argentine remakes. “The Intouchables” was produced by Harvey Weinstein, and “The Upside” was set to be distributed by the Weinstein Company before it was delayed and sold off due to Weinstein’s sexual abuse scandal. Nevertheless, the film rid itself of old ties and has grossed over $69 million in theaters.
The highlight of the movie is the unexpected camaraderie between Phillip and Dell. Phillip has gotten rich off investing and writing books, while Dell has served time in prison. Dell shows up at Phillip’s mansion asking only for an employer signature to get out of jail on parole, but his abrupt style captures the attention of Phillip, who is searching for a sidekick auxiliary worker.
As Dell tries to repair his broken family, he helps Phillip rediscover the joy and connection he lost in his near-fatal accident. Dell shows Phillip the wide range of experiences he can still enjoy without his arms or legs. Some of the most hilarious moments in the film come from the duo’s interactions as Dell pushes Phillip to regain his youthful enthusiasm.
Certainly, “The Upside” isn’t perfect. Dell seems to repair his broken family relationships solely by handing his paychecks over to his wife and buying her a new house. His son Anthony won’t talk to him until he rolls up to school in a Ferrari, and his wife suddenly changes demeanor after a series of $2,000 checks.
Both Dell and Phyllis, Phillip’s executive and secret crush, fit neatly into expected ideas of ex-convict and secretary in both looks and mannerisms.
Many critics wished the directors had creatively challenged viewers’ expectations of these stereotypes. And certain scenes felt disjoined and didn’t fit into a tight storyline. But what the film lacked in sophistication, it made up for with delightful emotional appeal.
Though some criticized the original movie for playing into demeaning stereotypes of blacks, Kevin Hart’s role in “The Upside” is much more that of a protagonist than a caretaker.
The directors don’t shy away from making jokes about Phillip’s disability, but messages of inclusion and positivity far outweigh any cringe-worthy lines.
Rotten Tomatoes gave the film just 39 percent positive reviews, but Google reports that 92 percent of viewers enjoyed the movie. What gives? Perhaps the critics were wary of stereotypical characters or the film having a similar plotline as the 2011 original.
But for regular viewers, “The Upside” reinforces several powerful lessons in an authentic style. Be thankful for what you have, step outside your comfort zone and appreciate every person’s value. Who cares what the critics think? Go watch “The Upside” for a healthy dose of charm.
Contact Gavin Cosgrave at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.