3 out of 5 stars (Average)
Kevin Hart has built a career around his persona. Loud, honest, and often funny, Hart has entertained audiences in standup routines and movies catered to his rapid-fire style of humor. The Upside shows a quieter, more relatable version of Hart that shows his potential for dramatic roles while still providing some laughs. With the ever-reliable Bryan Cranston to work off of, Hart provides his best performance as an actor to date, balancing snark and sincerity with unexpected ease. The Upside is a witty, well-acted drama that will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate life.
Hart plays recently-released convict Dell Scott, a man trying to do right by his ex-wife Latrice (Aja Naomi King) and son Anthony (Jahi Di’allo Winston) by getting a job and paying child support. He gets that chance when hired by rich paraplegic Phillip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston), despite having no experience as a personal carer. Under the skeptical eye of Phil’s business associate Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), Dell slowly but surely grows into his position and reminds Phil of life’s joys while also becoming a stronger man and father.
The Upside has been mismarketed as a feel-good comedy. While the film definitely has funny moments and scenes, it is largely a drama about two men trying to (metaphorically) get back on their feet. Hart and Cranston’s natural chemistry carries the film and their individual performances elevate the script. Many great comedians have shown dramatic potential, and Hart, while far from Oscar-worthy, feels refreshingly grounded. This isn’t the crazy guy we’re used to, but a quieter, more restrained man that I’d like to see more of in the future. Cranston reliably sells both the humor and pain of his situation with gravitas even when the script is as subtle as a brick. All in all, The Upside is a sweet, witty drama with good performances that reminds us how great life can be. See it.
Rated PG-13 for Suggestive Content And Drug Use