A mouthy no-account from the streets of New York (played by Kevin Hart) is hired to be the caregiver of a superrich quadriplegic (Bryan Cranston). Uplift is being sold here. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
“The Upside” is selling uplift. Selling it hard.
Selling it so hard that at the very end its two main characters are literally uplifted high into the sky, hanging from paragliders, soaring free as birds while triumphant applause bursts forth on the soundtrack.
Feel it? The feel-good? “The Upside” insists that you do.
No spoilers here. The picture’s ultimate destination is marked with an obviousness so bright it can be seen from space.
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The story — adapted by director Neil Burger and screenwriter Jon Hartmere from a 2011 French hit, “Les Intouchables” — is a study in black and white. Literally.
A black guy from the streets of New York is hired to be the caregiver of a superrich quadriplegic white guy. He’s completely unqualified, and his hiring makes zero sense. But without it, there would be no picture.
The black guy, Dell Scott, is a mouthy no-account, a convict on parole and a deadbeat dad way behind on his child-support payments. He’s played by Kevin Hart, doing his usual excitable Kevin Hart thing: spouting off, cracking wise, stirring stuff up with his abrasive ways.
The white guy, Phillip Lacasse, played by Bryan Cranston, is an art-collecting, opera-loving, mild-mannered fellow living in a fabulous Park Avenue penthouse.
A study in contrasts, don’t you know.
As opposite as opposites can be, they will, of course, find common ground. Will Dell develop a sudden love for opera? Will Phillip, the elegant gourmet, find gustatory delight scarfing down hot dogs at Dell’s favorite greasy spoon? One guess.
Life stories will be exchanged. Dell will learn that Phillip is grieving for his late wife, a victim of cancer. Phillip will hear the tale of Dell meeting his father in prison and being greeted with “welcome home” by the older man.
With Hart onboard, there will be plenty of jokes. Catheter humor is a big laugh-getter.
Wandering through this is Nicole Kidman, in the thankless role of Phillip’s administrative assistant. In schoolmarmish spectacles, she plays the part with a look that says, “What am I doing here?” Beats us, lady. Beats us.
★★ “The Upside,” with Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, Nicole Kidman, Goldshifteh Farahani, Aja Naomi King. Directed by Neil Burger, from a screenplay by Jon Hartmere. 125 minutes. Rated PG-13 for suggestive content and drug use. Opens Jan. 11 at multiple theaters.