The Upside (3 stars)

The Upside

Formulaic but funny remake of French smash Untouchable, starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart

Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart headline this remake of Gallic comedy drama Untouchable, the 2011 crowdpleaser that became the most profitable French-language film ever made. That fact has clearly not escaped director Neil Burger (Divergent), who sticks closely to the template of Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano's original movie, with predictable yet similarly entertaining results.

Transposing the setting from Paris to New York, the film stars Hart as Dell, an unemployed ex-con who wangles his way into a job as live-in carer to millionaire author and investor Phil (Cranston) – paraplegic following a hang-gliding accident. Phil initially hires Dell as an act of rebellion against his majordomo Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), but the pair soon forge an unlikely friendship that proves mutually enriching.

Hart really puts the effort in, toning down the more manic excesses of his comedic persona in favour of something much more relatable and affecting – it's easily his best performance to date. Cranston, in turn, is impressively expressive and there's appealing support from the likes of Kidman (making the most of a sorely underwritten part), Julianna Margulies (as a prospective date for Phil) and Tate Donovan, playing a snooty (read: bigoted) neighbour who receives a quietly satisfying comeuppance.

With both its stars on top form, their relaxed, funny chemistry effortlessly carries the film, engendering some big laughs in the process. The resulting feelgood factor compensates for the script's more glaring flaws, such as its simplistic views on class and race relations, or the way it uncomfortably echoes Driving Miss Daisy.

Burger's comic instincts remain solid throughout – for example, he knows exactly how far to push an excruciating set-piece involving the changing of a catheter. However, the film's formulaic structure disappoints, while the inclusion of an unnecessary prologue removes any sense of tension or drama from the early development of the central relationship.

General release from Fri 11 Jan.

The Upside

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 2h 6min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Neil Burger
  • Cast: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman
  • UK release: 11 January 2019

Dell (Hart) is an unemployed ex-con who gets a job as live-in carer to millionaire Phil (Cranston), paralysed after a hang-gliding accident, and the pair forge an unlikely friendship. Predictable but entertaining remake of the French smash hit comedy-drama Untouchable, with a fine and affecting performance from Hart in…

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