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‘The Upside’ falls flat, even when Cranston and Hart give their all

I’ll forget about The Upside by next week, when Glass comes out.

Directed by Neil Burger (Divergent, Limitless), The Upside stars Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart and Nicole Kidman.

Based on the French film The Intouchables and the real-life relationship between wealthy businessman Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and his caregiver Abdel Sellou, The Upside takes an American and comedic spin on how two incredibly different people help each other to overcome their difficult and struggling past.

As far as buddy comedies go, comedy/drama is a tough genre to crack. Different tones and butting characters don’t always have to be ‘realistic,’ which is what most dramedy films aim for.

Cranston and Hart run The Upside’s soul. Unfortunately, the story and script are stuffed with clichés forcing sympathy on a character with a disability.

Amid Kevin Hart’s anti-gay tweets and the aftermath that landed him in hot water, I was surprised at the nearly full theater, with maybe 5 seats left out of 100-plus.

But in this case, I put the art before the artist. Ironically, in a film referencing an abundant amount of art, The Upside tries to be artsy but turns out more like a final project in a middle school art class.

There is potential in The Upside. Cranston and Hart have chemistry. Hart has established long-lasting comraderies in his films; his friendships with Tiffany Haddish and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson prove that.

Cranston and Hart exchange some fresh and funny banter in their conversations. Those were the best parts. Judging from the audience’s uproarious laughing, I would say that they agree too.

I admire screenwriter Jon Hartmere’s solid intentions on translating this relationship to a mainstream audience. Everyone has their place and reasons on the set of The Upside. But in wanting to make a feel-good movie, the filmmakers tripped over the line and went preachy Lifetime instead.

In making a borderline cringeworthy film meant to pull on your heartstrings, the filmmakers messed up what could have been a beautiful and harmless film. Don’t get me wrong, The Upside is fine and you won’t waste your money at the theater, but it’d be better on a plane or on a rainy, indoor kind of day.

After watching Burger’s middle-of-the-road movie, I’m left with a lingering taste of disappointment. Cranston is the standout, having seen him in Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, where he is a more mobile character. His performance as a quadriplegic doesn’t mock or make fun of disabled individuals. The problem how The Upside handles this topic is the constant reminder that he is different.

The Upside is full of ironies. I understand that the movie is trying to bring awareness to this community and this disability, an honest and open-minded effort. I just don’t think The Upside lands as well on its feet as its French counterpart The Intouchables.

The worst thing about this attempt is Kidman’s flat and derailed character. There isn’t much growing in her character except for one small moment where she dances with Hart’s character.

After a successful 2018, Kidman starts 2019 with a cash grab performance.

I’m conflicted because The Upside has the capability to start the new year with a good note. I even love the ideas and heart behind the adapted screenplay. The film’s only factor that works, though, is Cranston and Hart as a leading duo.

As forgettable as their venture turned out, I hope Cranston and Hart work together again.

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