The Upside

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart form an unlikely friendship in 'The Upside.' (Courtesy) 

It is January and I’m already sitting through a Kevin Hart movie, which normally would fill me with more dread than having a root canal. Thankfully, I feel we are entering a new era for Hart. I think we are on the verge of meeting Kevin Hart – dramatic actor.

If such an era is beginning, he is easing his way into it with the comedic drama “The Upside.”

Rating: **** (out of 5)

Based on a true story (kind of), “The Upside” is the story of quadriplegic aristocrat Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston). Lacasse, who was paralyzed in a paragliding accident, needs a new assistant to help with his daily needs.

Fate brings him Del Scott (Hart).

Del is a recently paroled criminal struggling to get his life together. He showed up at Lacasse’s home to get a signature to prove he was looking for work and, through his sarcasm, lands the gig.

Del struggles to figure out the job and irritates Phillip’s executive assistant, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), in the process. As Del and Phillip spend more time together, the pair begin a friendship that is life changing for both of them.

“The Upside” is directed by Neil Burger, who is best known for “The Illusionist,” “Limitless” and the first of the “Divergent” films. This is an English-language remake of Golden Globe nominated motion picture “Intouchables,” which has remained one of those “I really need to watch” films since 2012.

Since I can’t compare this work to the original movie, nor the book it is based on, I am left to judge it on its own merits.

Being a huge fan of Cranston and holding lukewarm, at best, admiration for Hart, I worried that Kevin would do wacky schtick in the middle of a serious film. Thankfully, that did not happen.

Hart, while still getting some zingers in, delivers his most serious and best performance. It reminded me of when Robin Williams balanced comedy and drama in “Good Morning, Vietnam.” 

Cranston holds his own with Hart when it comes to getting laughs. They are as an unlikely film pairing as Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe were in “The Nice Guys,” but the pairing works. 

The only reason this film exists is because studios know most moviegoers aren’t going to watch a film in another language. Even I, a pretentious film snob at times, get that. 

I’m sure the original film is fantastic. However, for an American remake “The Upside” is a pretty decent movie. Check it out, and maybe even check out the original as well.

I will if you will.

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