Movie review: THE UPSIDE - Not A Very Successful Remake

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Movie review: THE UPSIDE - Photo credit: topsimages, edition by Amber255 for 

The American remake of the successful French film The Intouchables is released on big screens. At the distribution, the tape has named THE UPSIDE, but, in fact,  there is nothing new in it, except for changing locations and actors. Therefore, the film will disappoint those who are already familiar with the plot, built around the friendship of two very different people.

For the beginning - an interesting fact. The world saw THE UPSIDE almost a year later than it had. The original premiere has to take place on March 9, 2018, but the film's distributor, The Weinstein Company, at that time had more important deals - the dealing with sexual harassment cases of Harvey Weinstein. The tape was forgotten on the shelves, and only a half-year ago it, another distributor company bought it, and the film finally reached us only this year.

The Upside delivers pretty much what it says on the box - a solid buddy movie laced with equal parts drama and comedy.

Credit: timesofmalta

Why did I decide to mention this? Well, because I would like THE UPSIDE would have stayed on the shelves. Now you may think that I want to present to you a very bad movie! No, it is not. However, I still did not like it. So if the movie is good, why it should stay on the shelves? Hm, read on.

THE UPSIDE, Official Trailer - Video credit: youtube

The Plot 

Philip Blair, played by actor Bryan Cranston, has everything he can buy for the money. Except for health. Philip is paralyzed down from his neck and is completely dependent on others. For a frustrated, grieving, and an angry millionaire does not fit any new potential helper. His assistant Ivona (Nicole Kidman) is already losing hope that a suitable candidate will appear, and then suddenly Delas Scott (Kevin Hart) came to Philip's house. 

All potential employers don't want to hire Dell due to his criminal record that ended recently. A man with no big diligence to work does not grief very much - only his heart hurts because, without income, he cannot take care of his son who lives with his mother after a divorce. The guy bound by a social worker is walking to the companies looking for employees, but only to get a signature that he is not suitable for a particular job. 

With such a mood, Dell also goes to Philip's house. His perfunctory attitude and a loose tongue impress the paralyzed millionaire, and he offered work to Dell. At first, he rejects the proposal, but when he sees the salary, he changes his mind suddenly.

Every day, Dell's energy, good mood, and the absolute lack of compassion are increasingly affecting the millionaire sitting on a wheelchair. Constant care for a man who is not able to take care of himself makes Dell grow up, and Philip, with his new friend, gradually remembers what it really means to live.


The remake of The Intouchables: THE UPSIDE - Photo credit: dailymotion

The Content 

THE UPSIDE drama a remake of The Intouchables, a French film released in 2011, which almost identically reveals the history seen in the original film - a rich millionaire Philippe who is not in control of his limbs and lives in a wheelchair searches for the assistant. In order to diversify the gray life of a person with a disability, he hires an inexperienced man from the street Driss. 

Though their relationship is complicated at first, they eventually become friends when Philippe teaches Driss the ways of cultural life, and Driss, through his gratitude, introduces Philippe to the street, or rather just the culture of ordinary people. Because of this friendship, they both become better and more full-fledged. The scenario is based on a real story that happened to one French millionaire.

And that story is beautiful, isn't it? Indeed, it is. And I really don't want to be the one who, like a cliché, repeats the phrase ORIGINAL IS BETTER!, but unfortunately this time it is so. And there is one basic prism through which I value it - the ability to identify yourself with the actors.  French Driss also has these qualities, but he does not take action against Philippe wish, while Dell ignores it and does what he feels best. And practically all of his actions in the film are frustrating and upsetting.


Photo credit: wallpapershome

In the French version, Driss is a simple man, a representative of the working class, where everyone can see himself, no matter the social layer of the viewer. And the American Dell is one of the most annoying characters I've ever seen. He reminds me of all those uncles through the relatives' parties who think that they know what is better for you, how to behave, how to dress, and so on.

At times, I even started to look like he was a film antagonist. I don't know whose decision was to spoil the character this way, but it drops the quality of the film remake very much.

However, Dell is still not the biggest weakness of THE UPSIDE. The biggest minus is that the movie is just nothing. It is boring. It does not make you worry about the characters, or identify with them, or even think about what will happen next. You feel like looking at something that doesn't have a soul. 

From the viewpoint of the plot, written, by the way, with the participation of Paul Fig, American adaptation cannot boast of something original. The authors made several strokes to better fit the story to American realities, but only ardent fans of the French original will be able to notice the differences. 


Drama films: THE UPSIDE - Photo credit: imdb

Although THE UPSIDE story had a chance to more sharply show the current social contradictions associated with the class and racial differences of the main characters, the director decided to ignore them. 

With all due respect to Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, and other actors in the film who performed well enough - I didn't feel anything. Like watching the news on TV or chewing gum's advertising. The script is good; directing is not bad; the acting is good; the soundtrack is quite fun. In short, the movie really meets the standards. But it has no heart. It actually sents no message. There is no deeper thought except that life is beautiful.

And never liked such movies. If the film is very good, then everything is clear, it has caused positive emotions. If the film was very bad, caused negative emotions, but still did something inside, touched, even if not from the good side, it still left the impression. 

As for humor, it shifted towards the Kevin Hart's stand-up concerts, which not everyone will like.


Comedy films: THE UPSIDE - Photo credit: 

The Characters 

At the center of the plot is a character named Dell - a former prisoner who must find work; otherwise, he will have problems with parole. He gets into a presentable penthouse, thinking that he is offered a job as a cleaner. In fact, people there were interviewed for the assistant's place, who will take care of billionaire Philip living with paralyzed limbs for days.

For the order and affairs of Philip watches Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), who does not believe that Dell will cope with his duties. But straightforwardness, lack of education, and Dell’s inner freedom become the impetus for change in Philip’s monotonous life.

The billionaire from with Park Avenue, Phillip saw and tried everything; his wife died, he was paralyzed completely below the neck, and he was not at all enthusiastic about his own destiny. But it seems that he never communicated closely with such hotheads as Dell. That is why Philip appoints him as his personal assistant with a salary exceeding the wildest Dell's frauds. 


The film based on a true story: THE UPSIDE - Photo credit: twitter

In a strange way, what began either as a joke or as a challenge, suddenly makes both characters get out of the depths of existential compost. It turns out that a situation where the heroes do not care for each other deeply can turn out to be the warmest friendly relationship.

It looks, a rich white aesthete and just a tramp have nothing in common with each other, but this is not the case. They both love adventure and fun, and it becomes the ground for their unusual friendship.

It would seem, what are the prospects for such a union? A man from high society and a boy from poor neighborhoods. But as it turns out, they can give a lot to each other.

Dell acquires confidence in his own strength and capabilities, and, in the end, earns good money that allows him to solve various problems, in particular, to restore relations with his family.


Comedy films: THE UPSIDE review -Photo credit: imdb

Phillip gets a set of simple life joys - to gossip, drive a sports car through the night in New York, smoke some grass, eat a hot dog at a snack bar, and thereby gain a lost taste for life.

And another valuable joint acquisition is friendship. In general, it is a good story - kind, optimistic, funny, touching. Those who have not watched the French original, for sure, will receive positive emotions. Another group of citizens will unwittingly have to compare pictures, and the comparison will be not in favor of Hollywood.

The Technical Side

As it is a film remake by Hollywood, of course, the action is taking place in America, and the visual part of the film fits Hollywood standards. There are scenes, where your eyes will enjoy, so with the visual part, everything is OK. 


The film based on a true story: THE UPSIDE  - Photo credit: scoopnest 

Make-up, costumes, and so on are standard for American films.  

The soundtrack is not bad. Music, as in the original film, sounded mainly opera, including the music performed by Aretha Franklin.

In the end, the film draws a beautiful parallel between Aretha Franklin’s music and Italian opera, when the great soul singer performs Bellini’s aria from one of Philip’s records. In this scene, the authors not only find an unusual way to emphasize once again the kinship of the two heroes but also partly justify themselves for their work: a good song cannot be spoiled.

THE UPSIDE soundtrack - Aretha Franklin - Nessun Dorma - Video credit: youtube 

The Collective Work of Actors

The film acquires its own face in leading artists, who were selected with great care. Although Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston also did not come up with any new interpretations of their heroes, yet their characters are special, vivid and have little resemblance to prototypes.

Bryan Cranston is generally a very flexible actor who combines a great talent for both comedy and drama, and here he is well able to show it, even if he plays only with facial expressions. As for Kevin Hart, here, the comedian reveals himself in a new way and plausibly tried on the face of a black hooligan thrown to the side of life. Of course, Omar Sy created a more impressive and monumental image in the original, but here Hart relies on his comedian charisma, which generally allows him to draw out the most difficult scenes.

Dell Scott : You can have any girl you want. What about this lady with all the Botox? You're perfect for each other. You can't move your body, she can't move her face.

Credit: quote from the film via imdb

In the film, there is still Nicole Kidman, who plays a completely secondary and unobtrusive role. However, the image of a modest, cold lady, who is so easily shocked by the newcomer Dell very fits her image. Kidman's character is, frankly, boring, but she is doing well, although, of course, the casting director committed a crime by spending the time of the goddess for such a role.

She has a supporting role in which the actress is completely not revealed. More memorable is the episodic appearance of Julianna Margulies, who plays the woman with whom Phillip corresponds.


THE UPSIDE review - Photo credit: imdb

On A Final Note

The original film was appreciated for its spirit-lifting, lyrical power, which is almost absent in the American version. THE UPSIDE turned out to be much more poor with regard to sentiments and motivating phrases and is unlikely to bring anyone to tears and a thirst for change the life. 

In Hollywood, a big problem with the original scripts, once it was decided to make a film remake of one of the most popular and high-quality French films. However, there are stories that it makes no sense to retell again - this is how they partially lose their charm. Perhaps the creators of the tape have relied on viewers who do not watch European cinema and pay attention only to the American film product. Well, at the first acquaintance with the story, the film can really please, even with the presence of template moments.

Why watch THE UPSIDE?

The film will please fans of good optimistic comedies, in which, however, there is a place for pepper and a salty joke. Despite the demonstrative secondary nature, it is, nevertheless, a movie made in Hollywood quality. In the film, one can note the bright work of Brian Cranston, who was left with only a mimic from the whole acting arsenal. And it is nice to look at Nicole Kidman in the role of cold assistant with a romantic soul.


Movie review: THE UPSIDE - Photo credit: dailymotion

Why it's not worth watching?

The picture of Neil Burger is an adaptation of the French comedy film for the American audience - the case for Hollywood is quite typical, as they do with all foreign films, and the French comedies that we know well in Europe are almost all remade. As a rule, such tapes look simpler, the humor in them is rougher, and emotions are minimal. Neil Burger quotes the original almost literally, so it is hardly something that will surprise those who saw the French original. Maybe only that Kevin Hart's character is more brutal and not so sentimental. However, this option also may be close to someone.

I can't exactly recommend you take a chance with this one. Why? Well, because you have seen it all before, and probably done better.

Credit: filminquiry

My rating: 5.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 40/100
Metacritic: 46/100
Critics average: 85/100
IMDb: 6.4/10

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