The Upside tells a story that has been told a million times before. It’s almost as if it took the script to a better movie, changed the names, and called it a day. Taking this basic structure isn’t an inherently bad thing. Heck, it hits a lot of the same beats as La La Land. The bad thing is, The Upside doesn’t do it very well.
To be totally fair, this movie is very entertaining at certain points. Bryan Cranston gives a solid performance and Kevin Hart shows that he might have it in him to do more than just his typical Kevin Hart “thing.” But they aren’t able to take this mediocre story to the next level.
Ever since I saw the trailer for this movie (that looked like it was put together on Windows Movie Maker), I was hoping it would be able to bring something new to a tired story structure. Two unlikely friends – one fighting to see his son and one looking for genuine companionship – form a surprising bond that proves to be more important than they initially realized it was going to be.
This film raises important themes, such as the importance of family, honesty, and companionship. But none of them end up sticking out as the major theme that we are supposed to take away from it. The film is called The Upside – a reference to the fact that even in the worst of situations, you can find positivity. Phillip (Cranston) is a quadriplegic who lost his wife to cancer. Until he meets Dell (Hart), he doesn’t see any quality in his life. It takes someone treating him like a normal human for him to start to see his value again.
Does this sound like a lot of good ideas that could be looked into? That’s because it is. This film brings up lots of good topics, but its struggles come from not being able to drive any of them home.
The Upside is funny and entertaining at its best, and by-the-numbers and clichéd at its worst. It would have benefitted from latching on to one of its good ideas, but because it doesn’t, the story ultimately falls flat.