Red flags marked the road to release for The Upside, a remake of 2011 French odd-couple runaway hit Intouchables, with its March 2018 release date scrapped amid the seismic scandal of one-time producer Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
Already scheduled to ride in bafflingly late on the coattails of Intouchables’s goodwill, it emerges now with no real reason to be. Even shorn of any unpalatable context, Upside does nothing to justify its existence.
Produced on the condescending assumption that Americans don’t read subtitles, swathes are lifted verbatim from the original’s screenplay. Neither the Americanised reworking of the dialogue nor Neil Burger’s sub-pedestrian direction can freshen up what was already a tired, hackneyed conceit in 2011.
Kevin Hart, himself carrying the baggage of his acrimonious departure from the Oscars gig, is Dell – an ex-con struggling to provide for his disdainful ex-wife and their son. Employed as the live-in carer for quadriplegic millionaire Phillip (Bryan Cranston) through prosaic coincidence, the two hit each well-worn beat of slapstick hijinks and maudlin emotional growth with deadening proficiency.
The pair’s gameness produces one charming sequence that sees them shoot the shit over hot dogs while stoned, but it isn’t enough. Its patronisingly simplistic musings on race and class place Upside firmly in line with a hallowed legacy of saccharine “social issue” films such as The Blind Side and The Help.
Ridden with infuriating oversights, including the egregious waste of Nicole Kidman – stuck behind a pair of glasses supposedly to convince viewers this ethereally gorgeous person is a plain nerd – everything about Upside signals its outmodedness and irrelevance.
An easy paycheque for its three stars and an afterthought for those behind the camera, The Upside is a blank nonentity – objectionable in its regard for race, class, disability and good taste.
CAST: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan, Aja Naomi King
DIRECTOR: Neil Burger
WRITER: James Hartmere
SYNOPSIS: A comedic look at the relationship between a wealthy man with quadriplegia and an unemployed man with a criminal record who’s hired to help him.