This English-language remake of the 2011 French hit The Intouchables does an entertaining cultural touchup on the true tale of a quadriplegic white billionaire and his black life-auxiliary. Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart generate a great deal of the movie’s charm as they navigate what could have been a far more aggressively sentimental juxtaposition of lifestyles.
Phillip Lacasse (Cranston) was injured in a paragliding accident, but is more broken on the inside due to the death of his wife. Dell Scott (Hart) is a parolee who simply needs to prove he is looking for work when Phillip hires him as an act one step short of suicide. Unsurprisingly, Dell, who has not managed to be there for his ex-wife and son, reaches and teaches this not-dead-yet billionaire to live again. But Dell learns, too. Soon, he is listening to opera and providing for his son—mostly financially, thanks to Phillip’s generous salary.
The Upside hits so many predictable notes, but is rarely off-key. The movie genuinely believes in its own joie de vivre, which means the audience will, too. Hart’s brash turn, in which he shows the sad depth we should have come to expect from our funniest comics, allows The Upside to be funny without sacrificing the tragic core solidly anchored to Cranston and a toffee-nosed Nicole Kidman. Too bad The Upside missed the holidays; it provides the rare melodrama grown-up kids and parents might both enjoy.