"We're laughing because neither one of us is making a joke about the other's past acting choices!" Dell Scott (Kevin Hart, left) helps Phil Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) get around New York City in a scene from THE UPSIDE. Credit: David Lee. Courtesy of STX Films. 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, Golshifteh Farahani, Aja Naomi King, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Tate Donovan and Julianna Marguiles

DIRECTOR(S): Neil Burger

THE BACK STORY: Based on a true story (in that way that Hollywood will still take liberties with the actual events), The Upside stars Bryan Cranston as Phillip, a wealthy economist who can only move his neck and face as the result of a parasailing accident. Throw in the fact he lost his wife to cancer years ago and Philip seems to be looking more forward to having a DNR (do not resuscitate) incident than finding a new caretaker despite the best efforts of his dedicated assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman).

Enter Dell Scott (Kevin Hart).

A prison parolee, Dell needs a job ... But true to his hustler nature, he seems more interested in just getting the five signatures needed to keep him out of jail and finding a way to get his ex Latrice (Aja Naomi King) to let him spend more time with his son Anthony (Jahi Di'Allo Winston). So, one would think that when he goes to meet with Yvonne per his parole officer's instructions, nothing should come of it since he's not qualified, Yvonne instantly dislikes him and if there's one person in this world he has nothing in common with, it's Phillip.

So when Phillip offers Dell the job and he accepts it, the strict three strikes policy Yvonne has established should quickly end the mismatched pair's relationship. But as all three of them are about to learn, opposites sometimes not only attract, they are the best thing possible for people in need of some upside in their lives. 

THE REVIEW: A remake of the well-received French film The Intouchables, The Upside as a movie is very much a reflection of its cast: Seemingly mismatched, out of their element and yet so surprising, like Phillip and Dell, find you've enjoyed it more than you ever anticipated.

Love him or hate him – and given the extended comedic scene involving a catheter, his Academy Awards controversy may not be behind him just yet – Hart shows his most growth as an actor to date in The Upside while avoiding many of the typical trappings found in the black/white buddy comedy genre. Hart gives Dell a much-needed depth to avoid him being a fast-talking, I-have-all-the-answers-for-white-people yet I need answers myself caricature. I mean, there is some of that (Nicole Kidman dancing is painful to watch), but that's not all he is. Instead, he shows some people are the victim of circumstance, those circumstances don't have to define you and people of all backgrounds can be just as intelligent, creative and benevolent as anyone else.

Likewise, Cranston does a highly commendable job as the wheelchair bound Phillip, a man who at times lets his disability get the best of him in a way that is understandable to the audience without producing sympathy but empathy. This is what makes Hart and Cranston's dynamic work quite well together, making the two's on-screen relationship feel natural and homogeneous. This helps each character to develop over the course of the film without ever crossing over into preachy/corny/heavy-handed territory.

Ultimately, The Upside is one of those films that delivers big laughs in well-timed moments, heartfelt moments that naturally strike a chord with its audience and, true to its title's nature, has a lot of upside going for it. It's an audience pleaser that is also well made under the direction of Neil Burger that, despite occasionally hitting some regular tropes, is still worth watching, rooting for and ultimately, helping you to find the upside in your own life.



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