A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Find the positive when life turns negative -- or even tragic. Establishing a friendship with someone from a different walk of life can open up new perspectives. Money doesn't buy happiness. Recognize and encourage potential in others.
Positive Role Models
Main character is a quadriplegic, and film gives understanding, compassion to struggles of those with disabilities. Having a rich white man hire an incompetent black ex-con is a straight-up stereotype -- but in this case, this film is based on a true story. The two men develop a friendship that gives both insight into and empathy for each other's situational struggles and leads to personal growth.
Violence & Scariness
A character wants to die; he doesn't try suicide but rather doesn't want to be resuscitated. Objects are broken in anger, which is depicted positively. Characters do potentially dangerous things like speeding and parasailing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman is briefly shown in a close-up in the throes of passion. A couple of suggestive scenes revolve around inserting a catheter; the humor is derived from one character's discomfort with anatomical needs. Two women appear to be prostitutes but give pleasure in an innocent way. Main character sexually harasses a female co-worker for laughs. A subplot explores a potential romance.
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Language includes "s--t," "ass," "bulls--t," "damn," "goddamn," "hell," "piss off." The film's ability to imply rather than actually use crass language is impressive.
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Products & Purchases
Part of the movie's message is that money can't buy happiness, but that may not be the takeaway, since wealth gains the characters second chances and respect, as well as drool-worthy fine art, expensive cars, and experiences. Ferrari seen/showcased; "Alexa" is called upon several times to play music.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Marijuana is smoked on-camera and depicted as a way to have more fun and feel better; it's used as a tool for bonding and establishing friendship, all with no consequences. Adults drink wine, alcohol is given as a party gift. Adults smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Upside is a dramedy starring Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston about the unlikely friendship between a quadriplegic billionaire and a felon hired to care for him. It's based on the French film The Intouchables, which itself was based on a true story. The characters start out as stereotypes -- wealthy older white man grants opportunity to black ex-con -- but, through their friendship, the story develops insight into and empathy for their struggles. Parents may not love that drug use is what initially bonds the main characters: Smoking pot is depicted as fun, funny, bonding, helpful, medicinal, and consequence-free. The two characters grow closer by engaging in other dangerous behavior, too: smashing expensive items, speeding in fast cars, being chased by police, and parasailing. Regular swearing includes "s--t," "goddamn," and more, but the dialogue is slyer about sexual situations. Adults will understand what's being implied with the genitalia jokes, but innocent ears likely won't put it all together (although the word "porno" is used for comic effect, and a woman is briefly shown in a close-up in the throes of passion). The movie's messages are about normalizing disability and discovering positive, life-changing opportunity amid tragedy; viewers are also exposed to art, opera, and poetry. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This charming, based-on-a-true-story dramedy will appeal to audiences who know and love its stars -- and it makes a point of showing viewers how to better treat people with disabilities. Unfortunately, normalizing disability may be easier said than done; as the movie reflects, well-intentioned people can awkwardly muck up attempts to be kind and instead project pity, while others find it easier to just ignore the disabled. An example is clearly needed, and The Upside aims to offer just that by showing, rather than telling, when it comes to being an example of inclusion and understanding.
But there is a downside. The film embraces clichés. A poor black man's life is changed for the better by a rich white man. A Harvard-educated woman (played by Nicole Kidman) abandons her career because of her compassionate nature. And race and class divisions are bridged thanks to smoking pot. The film more or less indoctrinates viewers into the belief that marijuana makes everything better, which is an interesting choice, considering that the pot scenes are Hollywood creations -- unlike some of the film's other iffy material, which stems from reality (the real duo who inspired the film did make a game of speeding and then tricking police). While the film wasn't made for kids, those behind it seem to be aware that kids will likely see it -- hence the clever dialogue and camera work that dance around sexual implications so that nothing inappropriate actually occurs. Bottom line? The film amuses, entertains, and educates, and viewers are likely to exit the theater on a high note, but it may also inadvertently encourage younger viewers to go get high.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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