The Upside, an Unneeded Remake


David Lee

I like Kevin Hart. I like Nicole Kidman. I even enjoy watching Bryan Cranston, but turns out I did not like all these things together. The downside to The Upside was just about everything. I went into the movies expecting a heartwarming film about the bond between a people that from two very different backgrounds and the trailers got me pumped for the comedic relief Kevin Hart is known for. As it turns out, I was in for a long and uneventful 2 hours and 6  minutes.


The movie was a remake of the 2012 French film called The Untouchables which is based off a true story. But this 2019 version failed to do justice to the story behind this film. To me, the film seemed to lack a plot that kept me interested. It started off with the duo rushing to the hospital to keep the audience interested through the stale first part of the movie. But, this beginning scene seemed to become inconsequential when the plot came back around to it.


The movie seemed to throw tragedy after tragedy at the viewer but not lingering on them long enough to register any sentiment with the audience. The quadriplegic, Philip, played by Bryan Cranston, also has a wife that died from cancer adding to tragicness of his character. He then, later in the film, goes on a horrible first date with his pen-pal Lily who claims that his condition is too much for her to handle. This ultimately leads to Phil firing Dell, his inexperienced caretaker played by Kevin Hart, because of how he pushed him to do so much. Dell’s character also has his own sob story and a history of incarceration that put him on a path to him being away from hi skid who seems to only be mentioned sparingly throughout the story.  


Kevin Hart attempted to take a step back from a purely comedic character and place himself in a position where he could develop a more heartfelt character. To be honest, Kevin Hart’s humor could have made this movie a lot better. A lot. There were occasional moments that I found myself laughing including when Dell attempted to paint a picture worthy of Phil’s collection or can’t seem the figure out how to use the billionaires’ shower but Hart’s comic relief would have provided just that, relief to the dry plot line.


The ending of the film was easily the best part, bringing some closure to Phil’s history and a happy ending to Dell’s struggle. Dell and Phil reunite some time after their falling out. In the meantime, Dell has opened a specialty wheelchair store for the disabled while Phil slipped deeper and deeper into a sad state. Dell takes Phil hang gliding, which was the same way that Phil became paralyzed in the first place, bringing back happiness to the activity that had been lost to Phil through his disability. The ending also saw the beginning of a romantic relationship between Phil and his finance manager Yvonne, played by Nicole Kidman. The two seem to be connecting throughout the film and as the viewer assumes, climaxing their relationship following the hang gliding adventure. Even Dell gets a little bit of a happy ending, repairing his relationship with his son and the mother of his kid. The film ends with a classic documentary feel, a black screen with white text claiming to the viewers that the duo is still friends today. This end felt a little unnecessary but did help tie it back around to the true story element.


Prior to the release of the film, there was controversy surrounding Bryan Cranston casting in the role of a disabled person. Many people were upset to find an able-bodied person portraying someone who couldn’t move their arms or legs. While Cranston did a good job portraying a quadriplegic, Hollywood missed an opportunity casting an entirely different actor who was already disabled. Although I would argue that the big names in the movie definitely sold tickets, a smaller unknown disabled actor could have played Phil instead of a Cranston, the big name actor he is, which might have brought in equal box office sales.

In the end, The Upside was a disappoint in my books and Rotten Tomatoes too, only scoring a 39% on the Tomatometer. The film was a sad attempt at a heartwarming story that simply left the viewers unsatisfied with what could have been an outstanding film. I give The Upside 1 out of 5 stars.