Kevin Hart departs from his usual brand of comedy – one that involves him making a lot of short jokes and acting nervously hyper – to costar in The Upside along with Bryan Cranston. Hart plays Dell, a former convict who is trying to find work and turn his life around.
An opportunity arises when he becomes the personal assistant to Philip (Cranston), a quadriplegic who hires Dell to help him move through the world. Unlike Dell, Philip is extremely wealthy and has the means to do so. The clash between the two eventually gives way to something more friendly as they each see value in the lessons they other has to offer.
One of the first bits of promotional imagery was repurposed for the first poster, with Hart riding on the back of Cranston’s wheelchair. There’s not much more to say about it as the main point here is just to show the very basic notion of the relationship between the two characters while offering no other information about the story.
Dell is having trouble finding work in the first trailer, eventually happening across a position as the physical aid for a wealthy quadriplegic. He’s wholly unqualified, but gets the job anyway, learning what kind of help Phillip needs on a daily basis and enjoying the benefits of the lifestyle he’s found himself in the middle of. They bond and find that, beyond the physical needs, the two have a lot to offer each other in the form of new emotions, new experiences and more.
There’s a tendency here to play up some of Hart’s more comedic moments so as to show this isn’t a complete departure from the kind of movie he’s best known for. Overall, though, there’s a superficial and not all that intriguing story being sold here that seems to play into some notable cliches and tropes.
Online and Social
Only a small amount of content and information about the movie is offered on its official website, just the trailer and a synopsis. There were also Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles created by STX. On Twitter in particular the studio shared some funny GIFs and clips to help tie to the movie to Hart’s brand of humor.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The first paid effort was a promoted Tweet that used a short video to sell the movie to the public. A couple TV spots followed closer to release that focused on the friendship between the two characters and one on the working dynamic they share. Short videos were also used as pre-roll spots.
Media and Publicity
Originally titled The Intouchables it was later renamed to be, as with other such movies, as boring and generic as possible. The Weinstein Co. took the movie to the Toronto International Film Festival, where it accumulated some decent reviews that praised the chemistry between Hart and Cranston. It was there that the Weinsteins announced they would do some schedule changing to release it in time to qualify for this year’s awards season, with a wider release coming months later.
Unfortunately it was subsequently pulled from the release schedule completely due to all the drama within TWC as well as the fact that TWC always pulls every movie from release at some point because it doesn’t have the capital to support it. It was eventually picked up by STX Entertainment, partnering with Lantern to save the movie from oblivion.
The announcement that Hart would host this year’s Academy Awards ceremony gave the movie a nice conversational bump, even if the broadcast itself won’t be for a month after it opens. Much of that was undone in the following 24 hours, though, as people took him to task for old homophobic Tweets, leading him to drop out as host, only apologizing for what he’d said after the fact.
Hart and Cranston each spoke in a featurette where they talked about working with each other and telling a true story like this. Director Neil Burger appeared in another where he talked about the divide the characters must cross to relate to each other.
A couple interviews with Cranston had him focusing on playing a character with disabilities, something that other actors have recently come under fire for. His response to that, unfortunately, isn’t great and only served to pour gasoline on the fire.
Any and all stories about how this might be a contender to dethrone Aquaman from the top of the box office are ridiculous. Even if it weren’t the case that the movie had been collecting dust for over a year because of unrelated problems it just gives off the vibe of being a project no one should be thrilled with, the very definition of the cast-off January release. It features actors who are better than the material in roles that are rooted in terrible stereotypes, all supported by a marketing campaign that isn’t sure what kind of movie its selling.
Picking Up the Spare
A new clip and TV spot were released in the days leading up to the movie hitting theaters. More commercials like this came later that touted the movie’s status at the top of the box-office following opening weekend.
Hart also finally made some media appearances, but a lot of that was dominated by the ongoing conversation about whether or not he was hosting the Oscars and what kind of opinions he had on people. Cranston did likewise.
Great piece by Variety’s Rebecca Rubin on the ways the filmmakers turned things around and managed to overcome the disadvantages the movie faced.
Interesting details here on how STXfilms used targeted advertising to run a paid campaign contingent on guaranteed ticket sales and ad effectiveness.