“The Upside” is directed by Neil Burger (Divergent, Limitless) and stars Kevin Hart (Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Godzilla) as a seemingly unlikely pair who meet each other, develop a friendship, and therefore we have our movie. Cranston plays a paraplegic and Hart plays an ex-con who also manages to become Cranston’s caretaker. The movie is based on the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo, who suffered from a paragliding accident, therefore giving him unfortunate injuries.
Does this movie sound familiar to you? Well guess what? It exists, not just in the form of “The Upside,” but it also exists in the form of “The Intouchables,” an early 2010s French film. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, but lost to an Austrian film by the name of “Amour.” However, this didn’t deteriorate the overall quality of “The Intouchables” because on IMDb, it made the #40 spot on the site’s “Top 250” list. However, when it comes to my experience with “The Intouchables,” I can say it is very limited given how I never sat down and watched it. I might as well say that the main reason why I even went to the theater and watched “The Upside” in the first place is because it was a free movie. I subscribe to alerts of free screenings, and this is one of the things I got in my inbox. And knowing how my mother tends to enjoy comedies, not to mention Kevin Hart, I thought this would be good for us to see together.
But one thing got in the way, the ratings. Prior to going to the screening, I looked at the movie from a research perspective and one thing that stood out to me was its low IMDb score. In fact, as of doing this review, it’s still pretty low, it’s actually less than a 4! Why is that the case? I have no idea. For all I know, the low scores may have come from hardcore supporters of “The Intouchables,” people who hate remakes, or those who don’t want Kevin Hart hosting the Oscars. However, this movie released in 2017 at TIFF, and part of me wonders if the low verdicts came from negative reviews at the festival. Either that, or another thing that is highly possible is a bit of information that may not be on everyone’s mind. If anyone is curious as to what movies Harvey Weinstein’s production company would have been associated with in 2018, “The Upside” was supposed to be one of them. However, with the destruction of Harvey Weinstein’s film career, this movie was given to STX, which is a newer studio known for films such as “I Feel Pretty,” “Hardcore Henry,” “Bad Moms,” and “The Circle.” Maybe the verdicts had to do with that, I don’t know the full story. But the reality is I personally enjoyed myself while watching “The Upside.”
This is the first 2019 release I have watched. Some may argue it is a 2017 release, but as far as I am concerned, it’s a 2019 flick. And I got to say, this was a good way to kick off the year in film. Is it perfect? No it’s not. In fact, part of me wonders if I am overhyping it. This movie had heart, it had good chemistry, and a surprising amount of laughs packed into it. I walked out of the movie alongside my mother, moments later we talked about it, and she pointed out my laughing. If you have seen a couple of my posts or know me in real life, you’d probably get the gist that when it comes to comedy, there are times where I feel like I’ve seen it all. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that “The Upside” brings anything new to the table, but despite some cliche moments, all of them seem to be delivered with a sense of passion. There’s a good amount of physical comedy, sexual humor, and some occasional yells. Speaking of which, let’s talk about Kevin Hart.
When I think of annoying, crazy, loud comedians who occasionally pop up in movies, I think of Melissa McCarthy. Kevin Hart is pretty much the same person, although he’s a black male. Wait did I really just say that? I take that back, because I assure you, Kevin Hart is the complete opposite of annoying. Hart is always that comedian that raises his voice, but manages to do it with charm. He’s basically Tyler Perry with a superior agent. One minor critique I’d give to Kevin Hart as an actor is his range. He always tends to be the very person I described. He always manages to play himself or someone that has identical qualities to Hart: An arrogant loudmouth who likes to joke around. However, when it comes to his performance in “The Upside,” this slightly made me rethink my critique, partially because this may be the best performance I’ve seen from Kevin Hart yet. If you have seen a Kevin Hart movie, you’re probably familiar with his shtick. Just watch “Ride Along,” “Central Intelligence,” even “The Secret Life of Pets.” He yells A LOT. He’s even like that in real life, go on YouTube and watch Kevin Hart’s 2013 appearance on SportsCenter as he does the top 10. It’s one of the funniest things to ever exist. Seriously. The reason why I consider this to be the best Kevin Hart performance is because it tends to shy away from the cliches we see from him. Hart seems to tone down his voice a little more often, not to mention he’s more serious as opposed to a joker. Granted, it’s not the best performance I’ve seen from an actor, but it made me look at Kevin Hart in a whole new light. His strength will always be full-fledged comedy, but if someone asked me whether or not Hart has the potential to land some serious roles in the future, I wouldn’t say Hart can’t do such a thing. His performance as Dell is done with serious skill.
When it comes to Cranston, I must say he performed with excellence too. Compared to Hart, Cranston seemed to deliver drier humor. He seems to have less emotion than a good number of characters in the film, but at the same time, it is hard to display emotion when you are seriously injured. This does not suggest his character lacks personality, as we see one of the most commonly exposed gags of the film happens to be Cranston’s extreme obsession with opera.
I will say one thing though about the movie, as heartfelt and funny as this movie may be, it has a glaring problem in my opinion. I can sit for a couple of hours in a dark room with images on a screen at moving on a screen at twenty-four frames per second. But there are times when I felt there was nothing happening. There is an argument to be made that the entire movie revolves around the friendship of the two leads, but one of the things that might as well be an important part of any movie is a central problem. There are moments of conflict in the film, but they are resolved quickly and sort of feel rushed. Remember how in “Spider-Man 2” Peter Parker decided to quit being Spider-Man? It almost felt like if there was a complete change in that movie, where Parker puts his suit in the garbage, walks through the alley, then scoots back around only to put it on again. The conflict in this film just feels like something small, when you can’t find the TV remote and are looking all over the place for it, as opposed to something huge, such as the loss of your life savings or your identity. However, this critique is highly forgivable due to the admirable chemistry between the leads, the humor, and the performances.
In the end, “The Upside” was a surprise if there ever was one. And it just goes to show that not all remakes suck. Granted, this is coming from someone who has still yet to see “The Intouchables,” so maybe my opinion could change over time, but if you want a funny movie with heart, I do recommend “The Upside.” Is it a tad cliche? At times. Is it somewhat forgettable? Certainly. But it is also a good time at the movies. If you want to see Kevin Hart at his best, I must declare that “The Upside” is definitely for you. I am going to give “The Upside” a 6/10. Thanks for reading this review! Pretty soon I am going to be announcing the nominees for my upcoming awards ceremony, the Jackoff Awards, but before I do that, I have a few more 2018 films to watch including “Roma,” “Green Book,” and “On the Basis of Sex.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with a WordPress account or email so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “The Upside?” What did you think about it? Or, did you see “The Intouchables?” What did you think about that? Which is the better movie? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!