The Upside features utterly likable performances

BY NORBERT RUG

When Philip Lacasse, a quadriplegic billionaire, who was paralyzed from the neck down after a reckless paragliding adventure, played by Bryan Cranston employs an ex-convict Dell Scott, played by Kevin Hart as his caregiver, they both start on an unexpected path of friendship and discovery. Bryan Cranston’s chief executive Yvonne Played by Nicole Kidman is on hand to lend solid support.

This is the second buddy film we have seen recently. This wasn’t by design, it just happened.  It is a remake of the French 2011 film “The Intouchables”. The Intouchables was inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou, originally from Algeria.

Cranston never over exaggerates his disabled character but instead gives us a great grouch. Cranston plays a man who has no control of his body below his neck with a Do Not Resuscitate order. His interactions with the unfiltered Hart creates a rapport between the two of them that quite thankfully works in the film. There are quite a few really enjoyable location shots that include a stoned trip to a hot dog restaurant and a trip to an opera house that creates some pretty good laughs. Even a scene involving catheters, erections and colon hygiene is less cringe-worthy than you might expect.

Surprisingly, Kevin Hart held his own in this movie and I hope he will consider doing more movies like this. He showed a good range that I didn’t expect from a comedian. It must have been hard for him to perform in such a reined, utterly likable performance. The casting alongside Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman was outstanding. It’s an entirely different kind of role for Hart who anchors the movie. This provides the comedian his highest profile role he has had so far.

The only reason his character, Dell applies for the job is to maintain his parole status even though he doesn’t want the job or has any experience for it. All he really wants is a signature that so he can show his parole officer that he applied for a job. Hart handles the material easily, combining enough witty remarks to offset the more dramatic emotional dialogue. Dell and Philip’s mutual experiences grow, as the two share joints, prank the police to get out of a ticket and form a bond over Mozart and Aretha Franklin. Later, when Dell’s hostile ex-girlfriend and son reject his attempt to apologize, he buys them a new house and car that dramatically changes their minds. Nothing like money to make you have an about-face.

This movie defies the general consensus that remakes aren’t as good as the original. When taken on its own merits, and bolstered by a trio of utterly charming lead performances from Hart, Cranston, and Kidman this is a thoroughly delightful movie. This is an undeniably powerful human story at its core. The tale of Phillip and Dell, the black parolee who restores Phillip’s will to live, is surprisingly winning. The plot however is highly predictable. Except for the end.

Most of the movie was shot in Philadelphia and was originally produced by The Weinstein Company. When the studio went bankrupt it forced the film to initially miss it’s scheduled March 2018 release date.

Some of these storylines, such as the one about the artwork painted by Dell, are split your side funny. Bryan Cranston’s timing in delivering his punchlines is spot on and as a bonus, there are even a few Buffalo references. I would highly recommend this for a cold winter night to enjoy with your family.

10 out of 10 popcorns

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