The Upside

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The Upside

Runtime 125 minutes
PG-13

Hollywood is obviously bereft of original ideas. There seem to be so many more remakes that one wonders if there is anyone left who can come up with a new plot. Not only is Disney regurgitating another Mary Poppins as if one were not enough, studios are rushing to remake European films. But the hope that the remakes will be better, or even as good, is forlorn.

Now we’ve got a remake of one of Europe’s better films of this century, The Intouchables (2011). The downside of this film is the presence of comedian Kevin Hart, someone whose humor has totally escaped me. In my judgment, his movies have been awful. However, I link Hart with comedian Will Ferrell, whose sophomoric humor is almost insulting. But when Ferrell has taken his turn as a serious actor, as in Stranger Than Fiction (2006), he has been quite good.

The only point seems to be that maybe a rich white guy and a poor black guy can get along…

That’s the way Hart comes across to me in this movie. I didn’t think there was anything particularly funny about his performance, although there are some lines that are probably intended to be humorous. But his performance as the caretaker of a quadriplegic is right on.

As implied, Bryan Cranston is the quadriplegic who is confined to a wheelchair. Hart is an ex-con who is hired to take care of him and the film is about the touching relationship that develops between the two.

Unfortunately for me, I saw The Intouchables and this film, directed by Neil Burger from a script by John Hartmere, doesn’t come close to the original. The only point seems to be that maybe a rich white guy and a poor black guy can get along, a counterpoint to Green Book that seems to stand for the proposition that a rich (or at least successful) black man and a white hoodlum can get along. That’s where Hollywood is these days.

Nicole Kidman is also in the film and I can’t figure out why. Her character adds nothing and it’s puzzling why an Oscar-winning actress would sign on for a role like this.

For me the best performance in the movie was by Julianna Margulies who plays a woman with whom Cranston becomes involved by exchanging letters. Their meeting is extremely well done. Margulies’ performance is Oscar-quality, but that’s as close to Oscar as this movie’s going to get.

Tony Medley is an MPAA-accredited film critic. See more reviews at TonyMedley.com.

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