By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
After France’s The Intouchables received acclaim from both critics and the general public, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood would make an American version, and after eight years, The Intouchables redo is finally seeing the light of day. Dubbed, The Upside, the US version of the story maintains some of the heart of the original. However, despite the fact that some of the scenes and beats are nearly identical, director Neil Burger and his screenwriters make some inexplicable changes that fail to elevate the already smart material. All in all, The Upside is a fine remake, but one that lacks the same level of heart and poignancy that won the hearts of its most ardent fans.
Kevin Hart stars as Dell Scott, an unemployed parolee who is trying to sort out his life and reintegrate himself back into the life of his only son. Frustrated with the lack of viable employment opportunities available, Dell hopes to buy some time by having any employer sign off on his job search requirements. After accidentally discovering that a wealthy paraplegic man (Bryan Cranston) is seeking a live-in personal assistant, Dell, with his unfiltered attitude, intrigues the disabled gentleman and manages to actually land the job. While Dell gets used to the parameters of his new job and all if its responsibilities, he eventually becomes good friends with his employer Philippe and the two learn much from each other and how to better face their own life struggles.
Loosely based on the life of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and the portrayal of such in the film, The Intouchables, The Upside is sure to moderately please people who have not seen the original French film, but is guaranteed to perplex and possibly bore fans of the first version. Though the movie has the changes expected to Americanize it, it unnecessarily changes other plot points with a mostly melodramatic effect. The humor works mostly adequately, but without the same level of wit and charm. The result is a movie that feels like it is going through the motions, but just doesn’t have the same emotional and entertaining impact. It also lacks the same amount of character development. In The Intouchables, even some of the more minor characters have their moments to shine.
The film features some solid performances by the lead actors with Cranston offering the best acting. Regardless of what film or television show in which he is working, Cranston always seems to rise above and beyond the material. As Phillippe, he puts his heart and soul into this very pained character. Kevin Hart certainly gives the best performance of his career and on a much more subtle level, uses his skills for comic timing and delivery. However, he feels a bit miscast and not quite completely committed to his character. Nicole Kidman also stars as Phillippe’s secretary Yvonne. She gives an adequate turn, but her character lacks some much needed dimension.
And dimension is what really lacks from this Hollywood redo of The Intouchables. The original movie just feels more genuine and true. Even though this take on the story has its great moments, it just plays out like a less passionate imitation. Unless one has a severe aversion to watching a French movie with subtitles, I would highly recommend the original film instead of this one. The upside of this remake is that the filmmakers didn’t totally butcher this lovely story. The downside is that there really was no need to do it over when they did it properly the first time around.