At its core, The Upside is a remake of one of the most popular French films of all time, The Intouchables. Neil Burger’s American adaptation relies too much on genre clichés and the chemistry between its two stars without providing much originality.
The Production: 3.5/5
Wealthy entrepreneur Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) is a widower and quadriplegic, having become paralyzed after a paragliding accident. Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) is a parolee desperately trying to get three potential employers to sign paperwork to prove to his parole officer that he has been looking for work. Dell is told to report to Phillip’s house for an interview as a janitor, but is mistaken for a candidate as a caregiver for Phillip, and is interviewed by Phillip and his assistant Yvonne (Nicole Kidman). Phillip wants to hire Dell, not because he is a good candidate, but because he has given up on life, yet Yvonne knows that Dell is not qualified for the position, but goes along with the plan, putting Dell on notice that she is giving him three strikes and she’ll have him fired. Dell takes the job, hoping to help his son and ex-wife out of their slum apartment and prove to his son that he can be a caring father.
The main problem with The Upside is that we’ve seen this story time and time again, where two opposites come together to help each other out and come out on the other side as better people. Director Neil Burger (Divergent) and writer Jon Hartmere (The Electric Company reboot) bring nothing new to the genre, relying on genre clichés (Dell steals from Phillip, tries to cover it up, only to be found out eventually anyway; Phillip takes pity on Dell and gives him cash; Phillip has a DNR in place that Dell ignores). It’s not a bad movie, just not an entirely original one. Perhaps the real saving grace, though, are the performances and chemistry between Cranston and Hart (who, for once, is not entirely annoying), who do bring some laughs to the film, but not enough to push the film past its own mediocrity.
3D Rating: NA
I am probably sounding like a broken record with regards to Universal’s Blu-ray releases of late, but The Upside is another great looking release. Detail is strong, from facial features including the male leads’ beard and stubble to the beautiful city streets of Philadelphia. Colors are naturally vivid without appearing over-saturated or blooming. Contrast is quite good, with deep blacks providing good shadow detail and bright whites that don’t clip.
The Upside contains a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that is a pleasant surprise. Although a dialogue-driven film, as most comedy-drama typically are, there is some nice surround activity in the track, from music and crowd noises to other atmospheric sounds, and a nice LFE presence that gives some of that music a good low-end. Dialogue is clear and understandable, as expected.
Special Features: 1/5
The Special Features on this disc are pretty standard fare for an STX release distributed by Universal, which are often not much more than pre-show EPK fare.
Deleted Scenes (1080p; 2:21): Two scenes are included – Bedside Manner and Tough Room.
Gag Reel (1080p; 3:16)
Onscreen Chemistry: Kevin and Brian (1080p; 1:02): An EPK-style trailer spotlighting the chemistry between the film’s two stars.
Creating a Story of Possibility (1080p; 1:02): An EPK-style trailer that rehashes the film’s plot.
Bridging Divisions (1080p; 0:44): An EPK-style trailer showing the diversity of its two main characters.
Embracing Positivity (1080p; 0:41): An EPK-style trailer highlighting the positive messages of the film.
Presenting a Different Side of Kevin Hart (1080p; 0:48): An EPK-style trailer showing the more dramatic side of Kevin Hart.
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 2:37)
DVD Copy: The movie in 480p with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, plus all of the Special Features listed above.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on iTunes.
The performances of Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart pretty much save The Upside from drowning in its mediocrity. Universal’s presentation is quite good, but the special features are nothing more than pre-show trailers.