Happy New Year, everybody! Hope everyone had a great one! Bonus brownie points if you stayed safe. Hope everyone’s geared up for the next 365 days and those New Years Resolutions that you’ll never commit to. Unless… you’re serious about that stuff, then go git ‘em, tiger! Show those resolutions who’s boss!
For my review of the French original, click the following link: THE INTOUCHABLES (2011)
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Bryan Cranston (ISLE OF DOGS , POWER RANGERS , INFILTRATOR , and GODZILLA ), Kevin Hart (NIGHT SCHOOL , JUMANJI 2 , SECRET/PETS , RIDE ALONG , and upcoming films THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2  and JUMANJI 3 ), Nicole Kidman (DESTROYER , THE BEGUILED , LION , SECRET/EYES , THE OTHERS , and the upcoming THE GOLDFINCH ), Golshifteh Farahani (PIRATES 5  and PATERSON ), and Jahi Di’Allo Winston (PROUD MARY ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Neil Burger, known for DIVERGENT (2014) and THE ILLUSIONIST (2006). Penning the screenplay is Jon Hartmere, known for stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of. Composing the score is Rob Simonsen, known for FRONT RUNNER (2018), GIFTED (2017), NERVE (2016), BURNT (2015), and the upcoming CAPTIVE STATE (2019). The cinematographer is Stuart Dryburgh, known for BEN IS BACK (2018), GREAT WALL (2017), and the upcoming MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL (2019). Finally, the editor is Naomi Geraghty, known for HOTEL RWANDA (2004).
Okay, I’ve got some serious reservations here. For one thing, this is a French story. As in, it’s about a pair of men from France. The French already made a movie about it! It was a really good movie and I recommend everyone to see it. Subversive, plays with expectations, toys with tropes of the genre, it’s fantastic. But I’m looking at the trailer here and I already loath it. Sure, Kevin Hart isn’t helping matters, as he’s not exactly my favorite funnyman in the biz. With that said, this looks like it’s really going for the clichés. “You’re rich and you don’t know real problems like a black man from the sticks,” “Being rich isn’t all glitz and glam,” ugh! Why does America need to take something foreign and adapt it? Better yet, I’m calling it, this movie is a cynical cash-in to leech off of the popularity of the original film, which rests at an 8.5/10 on IMDb, putting it on their Top 250 list. Seriously, f**k this movie. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this movie is more faithful to the gentlemen that it’s based on and maybe it’s very funny and heartfelt. Anything’s possible, right? I’m not holding my breath, though.
This is my honest opinion of: THE UPSIDE
Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) is a former convict who is looking for work in order to provide for his ex Latrice (Aja Naomi King) and his son Anthony (Jahi Di’Allo Winston), both of whom want nothing to do with him. His efforts eventually take him to the wealthy Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), who is a quadriplegic, and is in need of a caretaker. While he has no real interest in being so, it turns out that Phillip likes Dell enough to hire him on, despite the objections of his closest assistant, Yvonne (Nicole Kidman). Despite Dell’s reservations, he decides to take on the job and he and Phillip become close friends.
Grr… no, this is nowhere near as good as the original film. Not even by a long shot. But… is it possible that I didn’t hate it as much as I wanted to?
Yeah, let’s tackle that first. The truth is, it’s hard to hate this movie because both Cranston and Hart are really good and have good chemistry together. Both retain the charm and shit-giving humor that the original had and it works far better than I may ever give credit for. I may never have laughed at any of the jokes, but I’m big enough to admit that it’s probably because I tried not to laugh. You know what, I’ll extend this to Nicole Kidman as well. In fact, I think the best scenes are when she and Cranston are together, providing the best acting in the movie.
And I’m also willing to admit that Hart is mostly pretty good in this movie. I’ve been saying for years now that I think the man himself is chill and awesome, but as a funny actor, he’s never appealed to me outside of a couple choice movies. I’ve always wanted to believe that he could be a legitimately good actor if given the right material and here he is in this movie, arguably giving the most engaging performance I’ve ever seen him give. For once, he’s not trying to yuck it up. He’s trying to play something straight and it actually kind of works.
However, my praises end there. Give me that soap of negativity to wash my mouth out with because I got some problems with this flick.
Just because this is bar none Hart’s best performance to date, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some of his classic humor. There are moments where he acts a little too loudly and reacts to things in an over-the-top way. Examples include him trying to take a complicated shower, to a nice paycheck that he exaggerates his excitement. Granted, all of that is in the trailer, but it’s about as unfunny there as it is in the movie. Whether or not Hart demanded that these scenes be included, I have no idea. It’s likely they were already in there and even Will Smith wouldn’t be able to make it work. Still, when Hart is meant to be funny, he’s not. There are even dramatic scenes where he feels like he’s not even trying to act. That first scene with him and his ex, and she’s yelling at him to leave, Hart barely has any reaction at all. He looks so dispassionate that I was worried this would be his performance for the entire movie. Thankfully, it’s not, but that was a really bad acting job there.
But Hart is pretty small fish compared to the bigger problems. And no, that’s not a jab at the man’s height. No, this movie opens as a near shot-for-shot remake of the original film, starting with the cop chase, and the rest of the film is told in flashback. And due to the film having next to no changes, all I kept thinking was, “Yes, movie, I would rather be watching the original film,” which has Earth, Wind, and Fire playing to set up the tone of the flick, by the way. Okay, so the rest of the movie isn’t “shot-for-shot” repeat, but the things added don’t really matter that much. Like, Dell steals a book from Phillip’s library to give to his son as a gift. You know what this amounts to? Nothing. Dell gets it back, some people are mad at him, he keeps his job, and it all amounts to wasted shooting days.
To add further insult, the movie is utterly clichéd. Seriously, everything that I feared that would be in the movie… was in the movie. There’s a third act break-up, but instead of it being because they both knew it was time to part ways so Driss could focus on his family, it’s the ever “popular” argument. Which, of course Dell and Phillip get back together. No, this isn’t a spoiler because anyone would be able to guess where this would lead if you’ve seen any kind of movie in your life.
Even the repeated scenes completely forget what function they served in the original. Driss didn’t make his painting because he was legitimately trying to make a good painting. He was making a statement that anyone could make a painting with random shapes and color splotches and it would be considered “art,” which made it all the more hilarious when someone buys the painting for a hefty sum. However, in this movie, Dell mocks the simplistic paintings and makes his own, but he comes across like he actually wanted to prove that he was a good painter. Driss’ painting was absurd and ridiculous, as was his intention. Dell’s is even more lame, but acts like a little kid showing off his macaroni art to his parents. And sure, the movie goes through the motions of Phillip selling the painting for a large amount of money, but once Dell gets the check for the money, he thinks this is truly his calling and that he can actually be a real painter. It’s so dumb.
It took me a long time to realize that the original film was actually remade twice before this one, both in Argentina and India and both in 2016. Then Indian version fared much better than the Argentinian version, so I can’t compare this to the others, but I have to believe that they’re better than this. Not that I think it’s tasteful to constantly remake the original, considering how great it was, and I’m sure that Philippe Pozzo di Borgo is tired of getting notified about this, but I’m taking a wild guess that Hollywood screwed up yet another movie that didn’t need the American touch. As recommendation, I give this a pass. The positives aren’t enough to make the entire movie worthwhile and the original is just too good. It never opened any real possibilities of improvement. I don’t even recommend this as a rental. I won’t say avoid it at all costs, but it’s just not worth the two hour runtime.
My honest rating for THE UPSIDE: a weak 3/5
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