Released: 19th April
Seen: 21st April
In 2011, the film The Intouchables was released. A French film based upon real events, it told the story of a wealthy quadriplegic and a poor black man who come together and change each other for the better. The movie was a box office smash, netting 400 million worldwide and gaining enough critical acclaim and love from the audience that, at the time of writing, it ranks 39 on the IMDB list of top rated films of all time. It is a film that has resonated with its audience… but it’s in a language other than English so by the laws of Hollywood, they have to remake the film for audiences who don’t want to bother reading subtitles and in the process make a film that… exists?
The Upside focuses its story on Dell Scott (Kevin Hart), an ex-convict on parole who is required to apply for any job that his parole officer tells him to go for. One of these jobs is as a janitor in a building where Philip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) lives and, because no one tells Dell where he needs to go in order to apply for the janitor position because everyone manages to have full discussions without ever mentioning that keyword, he accidentally walks in on an interview to be Philip’s life auxiliary. Dell ends up getting hired for the job by Philip, against the protestations of Philip’s assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman) who is against Dell being hired since he is clearly not right for the job. As time goes by, Dell tries to get Philip to embrace life more while Philip introduces Dell to the world of fine art and opera because this is clearly a relationship between equals and there is no underlying problem to deal with here… also, there will be a ton of bad dad jokes because that’s what we have to work with here.
This film has really been through the wringer on its way to the screen. The film was premiered in 2017 at the Toronto Film Festival and was bought for distribution… by The Weinstein Company. Of course, once it came out that the head of that company was one of Hollywood’s greatest monsters who should never be allowed outside ever again, there was a bit of a problem with releasing films attached to that company so it was sold and shelved until earlier this year when it came out and all I can say is… ugh, not worth the hassle. I just couldn’t get into this film, much as I tried to like it. I tried to be interested in the exploits between the two leads, the actors have chemistry that works and both can be very engaging (Even if my thoughts about Kevin Hart aren’t exactly great, since I’m still a little bitter over his Oscar controversy. I can cop to that) but sadly, the engaging performances by the two lead actors is pretty much the only thing that we have to work with here.
Everything else about this film feels like it’s phoned in, from the plot to the dialogue to even some of the visual choices, it just doesn’t work. It’s not even like it’s that different from the original when it comes down to plot but in the translation, the jokes have lost so much of their lustre. So many of them just feel like the kind of jokes you might hear from your dad after he’s found a copy of “101 Greatest Jokes Eva!!!” and regales you with lines like “What’s a niche?” “It’s the girl version of a nephew”, which is an actual joke that happens long before the characters decide to smoke a blunt. The jokes that are used to put some lightness into this movie feel so awkward at times, to the point where it took until the one hour mark for there to be a joke that I could actually laugh at.
The hard thing about reviewing this film is that it’s not even spectacularly bad; it’s just kind of there. It exists and plods along from plot point to plot point with a dad joke along the way. The plot is acceptable but clearly not updated much from the original, with the exception of changing one side character’s storyline to force a breakup in the third act. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just forgettable. It’s forgettable enough that between the time I finish typing this review and the time I post it, I will not remember a single event that happened during this movie and that’s just sad.