It’s déjà vu as the life-affirming hit French comedy-drama ‘The Intouchables’, the true story of a bromance between a wealthy quadriplegic man and his black live-in carer from the projects (aka the American version of a council estate), gets the Hollywood treatment. This really is an incredibly cheesy remake – and the original was already pretty cheesy – starring ‘Breaking Bad’ actor Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart, doing their best with a script that cracks out all the odd-couple movie clichés.
It’s nicely acted though. Cranston plays billionaire investor Phillip, paralysed from the neck down after a paragliding accident. When his secretary (Nicole Kidman) advertises for a carer, Phillip hires the least qualified candidate Dell (Hart). Not long out of prison, Dell only shows up at the interview to keep his parole officer sweet. Is Phillip charmed by his humour and realness? Or because he suspects that Dell won’t ignore his Do Not Resuscitate order? A good deal of seen-it-before buddy comedy follows, as Phillip introduces Dell to highbrow culture, while Dell gets his boss high on marijuana. The script even nicks that bit from ‘Pretty Woman’ where Julia Roberts cries at the opera.
That’s not to say The Upside is a complete write-off. The two actors bounce off each like ping-pong balls. Cranston in particular, acting only with his face, brings humanity and intelligence to a flimsy part – and it’s pretty funny in places. But there’s no ignoring the fact that the characters are based on unevolved racial stereotypes, and the suggestion – even in a crowd-pleasing comedy – that America’s divides can be fixed with Pavarotti and a joint is downright Stone Age.