The film begins one night when Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) is driving Phillip’s (Bryan Cranston) flashy sports car at high speed. They are chased through the streets by the police and eventually cornered. Dell claims the quadriplegic Phillip must be urgently driven to the emergency room as he is having an epileptic fit; Philippe pretends to have a seizure and the fooled police officers escort them to the hospital. All cliched comedy here, The story of the friendship between the two men is then told as a flashback with this scene retuned at the end.
THE UPSIDE is the remake of France’s second most successful box-office film of all time, the 1999 LES INTOUCHABLES which cost 10 million euros to make but grossed over $360 euros.
The first paragraph describing the story could be applied to both films as THE UPSIDE is quite the similar film but with a few changes. The American remake changes parts of the original to make the story more believable and dramatic.
Among the changes:
the American version has a a more realistic but less effective ending
the Nicole Kidman character is expanded though not too credible at the end
the comedy is reduced with more drama added
the setting is changed from Paris, France to the U.S.
the character of Phillip’s adopted daughter is omitted completely in the remake
as the film is based on the true story of these two ‘friends’, the original ending showed the two men in real life, Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his French-Algerian caregiver Abdel Sellou
It is debatable whether each the changes improves the film, as what is written on paper might not turn out that well or turn out better on film. Still, the script by Jon Hartmere is a lazy one that follows most of the original scene by scene.
THE UPSIDE benefits from the three lead performances. Bryan Cranston (TRUMBO) has first billing. He plays a quadriplegic, which means he can only act using his neck upwards. Hart gets to clown around for all that is worth. When the script allow him to do his thing as in the scene where he is supposed to clean up his boss, (What is an American comedy without its shit jokes?) Hart comes across as quite desperate on trying to get a few laughs out of a script that lives him nothing. I found this segment unfunny and boring though it did get a few laughs from a few of the audience at the promotional screening. Kidman plays the prissy role of the personal business assistant well giving a needed boost to the under-written role.
For a comedy, the running time of over two hours (126 minutes) is lengthy which explains the film crossing the line into feel-good drama. Bit cliche upon cliche are piled up, if not identical set-ups from the original film. The end result is a goofy and unrealistic feel-good movie that is as boring as it is original.