HomeMoviesReview: The Upside is an Inconsistent Downer

Review: The Upside is an Inconsistent Downer

Photo Credit: David Lee/Photographer

Written by Tom Moore

While a solid departure from straight comedy for Kevin Hart, The Upside struggles with an inconsistent tone and ends up being much more of a downer.

The film (a remake of the 2011 French film, Les Intouchables) follows Dell (Hart), an African-American man who is looking for work while he is on parole. Dell has some dour views on the world and struggles with both keeping work and maintaining a good relationship with his family.

Things slowly change, though, when he meets Phillip (Bryan Cranston), a white quadriplegic that shares the same troubled views on life as Dell. Now, as the two come together after Dell is hired by Phillip to help him with daily tasks, the two learn how to love life and gain a sense of optimism again.

The only real strengths this film brings is with the performances from Hart and Cranston. While Cranston is known to mix comedic and dramatic roles pretty well, it’s actually quite surprising to see Hart almost match Cranston’s talents. Hart isn’t perfect or anything–especially when you realize his additions to being dramatic are just an uncaring monotone and not being a zany as he usually is–but his more subtle approach to comedy and line-delivery made his performance much better. The two also have some solid chemistry in moments where they open up more.

However, it seemed like the only way for these characters and actors to loosen up was by getting high, and instead of the cheerier moments feeling endearing, they felt incredibly cheap. Honestly, a good chunk of the film’s opening is so dark and depressing that when the film suddenly shifts to longer stretches of comedy, it became almost bipolar. Watching the film felt like it switched between comedy and drama constantly instead of mixing the two cohesively and it led to an experience that gave me whiplash.

There’re even parts of the film that felt as if they could be cut out or were set up in a way that felt like a gimmick to be more comedic or dramatic. For instance, seeing Dell struggle with Phillip’s fancy shower and putting in Phillip’s catheter only feel like they exist to pad the runtime and add more comedic bits that, while funny, didn’t really fit. There was also a relationship between Phillip and Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), his business assistant, that felt incredibly forced and unnecessary.

Even Dell and Phillip as characters came off much more unlikable. While Phillip went through some noticeable growth, Dell never felt like he necessarily changed in personality or his issues. In scenes where he attempted to do better for his family, I just couldn’t accept the idea that buying a nice house or driving in a nice car would make him and his son grow closer. Dell’s uncaring demeanor and “dramatic” personality also never changed and I found it tough to want to root for him to succeed when the lesson he learns felt like it was just that money solves everything.

Not to mention, Dell and Phillip were stuck with stereotypical dialogue from the poor to the rich. Dell, of course, can’t pronounce big fancy words and Phillip is basically this socialite who looks to stray away from others in his inner circle. It made their relationship not feel as special and, once again, stripped away some of the endearing moments.

Well, I guess the upside, sorry for the pun, of The Upside is that Hart and Cranston put in solid performances that made this tonally-off film a slightly enjoyable watch. Without them, the film would have easily came off as forgettable and would have carried even less enjoyable energy than it already didn’t have.

Rating: 4/10

The Upside is currently playing in theaters nationwide.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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