The Upside

 

starstarstarstar

 


The Kevin Hart remake of the 2011 French film Untouchable is a different animal, but it’s still a heart-warming entertainment that should touch a mainstream audience.

 

Upside, The

Bedroom farce: Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart

  

Dell Scott has never cared for anybody in his life except himself. Now, in order not to go back to prison, he has to prove to his parole officer that he is looking for work. And by a bizarre quirk of fate he lands the job of a carer. Sometimes, it seems, your last chance can be your best chance…

 

The bare bones of Neil Burger’s engaging, heart-warming comedy is based on a true story – and, more specifically, on the irresistible, entertaining French film Untouchable (2011). That film, starring François Cluzet as a wealthy paraplegic whose life is transformed by his streetwise carer (Omar Sy), was an international hit both critically and commercially. Inevitably, Hollywood came calling and various big-name American stars were announced for the remake (Colin Firth and Jamie Foxx, for starters). When, finally, the project landed in the lap of Kevin Hart, ripples of disenchantment may have proved inevitable. Yet it is Kevin Hart’s street sensibility that sort of works in the new film’s favour. When the more unlikely transformations happen to Dell, Kevin Hart makes them resonate all the stronger. Dell Scott may be a thief and a liar, but he always speaks his mind, is uncompromisingly honest and is even a natural comedian.

 

Relocated to Philadelphia and with Bryan Cranston cast as the cantankerous millionaire Phillip Lacasse and Nicole Kidman as his secretary Yvonne, the film is immediately sprinkled with 24-carat gold dust. Cranston is terrific as the culture vulture with a mischievous air and Nicole Kidman fully inhabits her role as the prim, Harvard-educated princess to fine comic effect. Having recently starred opposite the hulking Jason Momoa in Aquaman, nothing can no longer surprise us about Nicole. But Nicole and Kevin Hart? It’s a marvel that her superior height (she’s seven inches taller than he) is not made a running joke, but within the parameters of this streamlined Hollywood remake, she fits in just nicely.

 

The basics of the premise remain appealing – how two disadvantaged men can draw on their strengths to create a workable partnership – and many of the narrative add-ons work, too. Here, there’s a subplot in which Dell steals a copy of Huckleberry Finn, which turns out to be a signed first edition; and another in which he replaces a Cy Twombly with his own crude canvas. Aesthetes will blanch. What the remake offers is not only the consequential themes of redemption, change, doing the right thing and refusing to pass judgement on others, but an uplifting entertainment with a surprising number of genuine laughs.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman, Aja Naomi King, Jahi Di'Allo Winston, Genevieve Angelson, Golshifteh Farahani, Tate Donovan, Julianna Margulies.

 

Dir Neil Burger, Pro Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal and Steve Tisch, Screenplay Jon Hartmere, Ph Stuart Dryburgh, Pro Des Mark Friedberg, Ed Naomi Geraghty, Music Rob Simonsen, Costumes Kasia Walicka-Maimone.

 

Escape Artists-STX International.

125 mins. USA. 2017. Rel: 11 January 2019. Cert. 12A.