The whole point of a trailer is to make people want to see the movie. And sometimes, to do that, the trailer shows all the best parts of the film. When that happens, moviegoers only get to see what is left, which can disappoint audiences. And that is exactly what happened with The Upside.
The Upside follows quadriplegic “richer than Jay-Z” widower Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), who lost the ability to move from the neck down in a paragliding accident, as he hires the least (if at all) qualified life auxiliary candidate Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) in a self-destructive initiative. Scott is out of prison, looking for work, and trying to appeal to his ex to restore his ruined relationship with his son. From opposite ends of the spectrum, Lacasse and Scott, despite the differences, get to know each other and unconsciously help each other through their struggles.
There is nothing new about the plot, it has been done time and time again, and the filmmakers know that. But they are relying on the film’s emotional appeal to make it stand out and resonate with audience. To a certain extent that works, but it in no way makes up for the many significant issues with the film.
The Upside is a two-hour long film and the expected “fight” that temporarily breaks up this bromance, happens and is resolved in the last 10-15 minutes, making it seem trivial, irrelevant, and almost shoved in.
The film’s characters are also very stereotypical; the billionaire is white, listens to opera, and eats kumquats while the African American has been to jail, is not able to pay child support, smokes weed, and listens to Aretha Franklin. Right there, the mere characterisation of The Upside is very suspicious. The fact that African American Dell works for or serves white Phillip, as well as the pair’s sharing of their different “cultures” with each other, add even more suspicion. Is the film blatantly racist? No, it is not, but its setup choices are questionable.
Another issue with the film was created by its trailer. The trailer gave the audience an expectation to laugh because of Kevin Hart’s presence, and hope that this would be a very heart-warming film. The reality is that these elements are included, but are minimal compared to the audience’s expectations.
For the acting, Bryan Cranston was remarkable, especially since he had a character who is paralysed from the neck down. Despite that, Cranston was able to convey powerful emotions and give his character a realistic dimension with mere facial expressions. Kevin Hart’s performance was debatable, as he stepped farther away from his forte in comedy than in most of his previous work. Hart’s performance was not damaging but also was not remarkable.
If you want to see Kevin Hart taking a shot at a dramatic role, Bryan Cranston with perfect acting chops and a hilarious scene with both of them extremely high, watch The Upside. Just don’t watch the trailer first.