The Upside review – Bryan Cranston heads up horrific odd-couple disability drama

This sentimental remake of French heartwarmer The Untouchables pairs a quadriplegic businessman with black carer Kevin Hart to give unfunny echoes of Trading Places

There’s a downside to this horrific film as steep as the drop from Beachy Head. Theoretically, it’s a remake of Intouchables, the French heartwarmer smash from 2011 taken from a true story, starring François Cluzet as a lonely, angry, quadriplegic multimillionaire and the redemptive odd-couple friendship he strikes up with his irreverent ex-con carer, played by Omar Sy. The film suggested a matching caste equivalence in their respective disadvantages: physical and socioeconomic.

This version has Bryan Cranston as the wheelchair user, Phillip, a mega-rich business guru and art collector who suffered a catastrophic hang-gliding accident. (His single status is moreover explained by having his wife’s cancer death perfunctorily remembered in flashback.) Kevin Hart plays Dell, the fast-talking guy on parole who somehow gets a job as his live-in “life auxiliary”.

You don’t have to have seen the French film to feel that things look rather familiar. With the condescending and cloying link of a white man in trouble and a funny, submissive black man who can’t quite believe his luck in getting to sample all the luxury, this looks like a solemnly gag-free revision of Trading Places or, more to the point, Hart’s own recent broad comedy Get Hard. Hart also, incredibly, gets a miraculous appreciation-of-opera moment stolen from Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

As for Bryan Cranston’s wheelchair user, he seems to be surrounded by very beautiful and intelligent women and we are unsubtly invited to note, in their very profusion, what a huge heterosexual catch he is still supposed to be. Nicole Kidman plays his devoted assistant Yvonne, Golshifteh Farahani is his physical trainer and Julianne Margulies is a woman he goes on a date with – she’s a librarian.

The whole affair is misjudged and sickly sweet.

Watch the trailer for The Upside


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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