Movie News & Reviews

‘Upside’ delivers its obvious message in predictable way

Bryan Cranston, left, is a wealthy quadriplegic who gets help from struggling parolee Kevin Hart in “The Upside.”
Bryan Cranston, left, is a wealthy quadriplegic who gets help from struggling parolee Kevin Hart in “The Upside.” AP

“The Upside” is selling uplift. Selling it hard.

Selling it so hard that at the very end its two main characters are literally uplifted high into the sky, hanging from paragliders, soaring free as birds while triumphant applause bursts forth on the soundtrack.

Feel it? The feel-good? “The Upside” insists that you do.

No spoilers here. The picture’s ultimate destination is marked with an obviousness so bright it can be seen from space.

The story, adapted by director Neil Burger and screenwriter Jon Hartmere from a 2011 French hit, “Les Intouchables,” is a study in black and white. Literally.

A black guy from the streets of New York is hired to be the caregiver of a super-rich quadriplegic white guy. He’s completely unqualified, and his hiring makes zero sense. But without it, there would be no picture.

The black guy, Dell Scott, is a mouthy no-account, convict on parole and a deadbeat dad way behind on his child-support payments. He’s played by Kevin Hart, doing his usual excitable Kevin Hart thing: spouting off, cracking wise, stirring stuff up with his abrasive ways.

The white guy, Phillip Lacasse, played by Bryan Cranston, is an art-collecting, opera-loving, mild-mannered fellow living in a fabulous Park Avenue penthouse.

A study in contrasts, don’t you know.

As opposite as opposites can be, they will, of course find common ground. Will Dell develop a sudden love for opera? Stand by for his standing ovation. Will Phillip, the elegant gourmet, find gustatory delight scarfing down hot dogs at a Dell’s favorite greasy spoon? Three guesses. (The super-potent pot they’ve shared induces super-powerful munchies.)

Life stories will be exchanged. Dell will learn that Phillip is grieving for his late wife, a victim of cancer. Phillip will hear the tale of Dell meeting his father in prison and being greeted with “welcome home” by the older man.

With Hart onboard, there will be plenty of jokes. Catheter humor is a big laugh-getter.

Wandering through this is Nicole Kidman, in the thankless role of Phillip’s administrative assistant. In schoolmarmish spectacles, she plays the part with a look that says, “What am I doing here?” Beats us, lady. Beats us.

The Upside

2 stars out of 4

Cast: Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Goldshifteh Farahani, Aja Naomi King.

Director: Neil Burger

Running time: 2:05

Rated: PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use