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Blu-ray Review: The Upside

May 21, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

I have always believed that the majority of comedic actors have a natural ability to do drama as well, and there have been many examples of comic actors seamlessly transitioning into more serious roles over the years. One of the latest cases is that of Kevin Hart, who delivers the best performance of his career so far in The Upside.

Sure, Hart still gets the chance to be funny in this film, with his character’s rapid-paced line deliveries and penchant for smartass comments playing right into his wheelhouse. But this is not strictly a comedic role, and he is able to show a dramatic range that has mostly been underutilized in his career up to this point.

A remake of the 2012 French film The Intouchables, which was itself based on a true story, The Upside follows Dell Scott (Hart), an ex-con with an estranged wife (Aja Naomi King) and son (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) that he needs to financially help, who ends up taking a job caring for Philip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), a quadriplegic billionaire who needs support in all areas of his life. Dell initially goes to the interview thinking it’s for a janitor position, and despite clashing with Philip’s assistant Yvonne Pendleton (Nicole Kidman), Philip senses something in Dell and decides to give him the job, which is a live-in position.

No, this film doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original, which starred French actors François Cluzet and Omar Sy in the roles that are played here by Cranston and Hart, and became a massive hit in its native country. But in terms of a remake, The Upside hits almost all of the right notes. It’s gently funny and tender when it needs to be. The film is often touching in the way that it charts the development of the unlikely friendship that forms between these two very different men, allowing us to spend time with and care about these characters.

Director Neil Burger, working from a screenplay by Jon Hartmere who adapted and translated Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s script for the original, strikes a good balance between the comedic and dramatic moments, and he keeps the story running smoothly over the two hour running time. I found myself smiling throughout much of it, and the excellent performances of Hart and Cranston really help elevate this version of the story. This is Hart’s best work in particular, and he will hopefully get more chances to tap into this more dramatic side in future roles.

The Blu-ray also includes a pair of deleted scenes and a gag reel, as well as the five very short featurettes Onscreen Chemistry: Kevin and Bryan, Creating a Story of Possibility, Bridging Divisions, Embracing Positivity, and Presenting a Different Side of Kevin Hart, which are all a minute or less in length.

The Upside is an Elevation Pictures release. It’s 126 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: May 21st, 2019

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