Based on the 2011 French film The Intouchables, The Upside follows quadriplegic millionaire Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) as he hires a streetwise parolee (Kevin Hart’s Dell Scott) to work as his assistant and right-hand man – with the narrative detailing the unlikely friendship that slowly forms between the vastly different men. Filmmaker Neil Burger, working from a script by Jon Hartmere, treads often exceedingly familiar ground through the course of The Upside‘s padded-out 125 minute (!) running time, and yet there’s little doubt that the movie remains surprisingly watchable from start to finish (even if it contains exceedingly few standout sequences or images) – with the agreeable-enough vibe due mostly to the stellar work by leads Cranston and Hart. (The former is as commanding and engaging as one might’ve expected, while the latter delivers an eye-opening work that easily ranks at the top of his mostly dismal filmography.) It’s difficult not to wish, however, that Burger had stripped the shaggy narrative down to its bare essentials, as The Upside suffers from a lack of momentum and a meandering midsection that seems to miss just as often as it hits. The feel-good finale is, as a result, unable to pack the emotional punch that Burger has obviously intended, and it’s impossible, in the end, to label The Upside as anything more than a well-intentioned showcase for performances that are often better than the material itself.
**1/2 out of ****