‘Upside Down’: Mostly just obvious

March 15, 2013

upsidedown
As allegories go, Juan Diego Solanas’ “Upside Down” is about as deep as that famous Frank Gorshin “Star Trek” episode – we’re talking classic “Star Trek,” mind you.

In the episode, titled “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” the Enterprise picks up two aliens whose faces are split down the middle: one side black, one side white. But one’s face is black on the left side and one’s is black on the right – and each guy thinks the other is inferior and should be eradicated. (Hey, it was the 1960s – when something like this on network television actually was pretty deep.)

Except, in “Upside Down,” there are two parallel planets – and to the people on each planet, the other planet looks – yes, you guessed it, upside down. And each planet has inverse gravity to the other – so if you should happen to stray to the other planet, you would float up. Oh, and there’s something about items from one world catching fire if they’re on the other planet for more than an hour, to keep intruders from one planet from visiting the other.

Because, yes, one planet thinks it is superior to and has enslaved the other. The high-falutin’ planet is known as Up Top and, imaginatively, its opposite is known as Down Below.

In this elaborate and needlessly complex and elongated little fantasy, a boy named Adam (Jim Sturgess) from Down Below climbs a mountain, which puts him within shouting distance of a girl named Eden (Kirsten Dunst) who lives Up Top and has climbed a similarly protruding peak. They fall in love and he figures out a way for them to visit each other, which is against the rules. When they’re caught, Eden falls back to her planet, bumping her head and incurring amnesia.

Years pass and Adam gets a job working for TransWorld, the megacorporation whose headquarters building bridges the two worlds. He even works his way up to a position of semi-importance – as important as someone from Down Below can be – because he may have discovered an anti-aging cream that lifts wrinkles away.

One night on TV, he sees Eden, who is now a major PR person for TransWorld. So he endeavors to meet her and try to remind her of what they used to have. This involves surreptitious trips from one planet to another using a combination of inverse matter (from the other planet) and weights, to keep himself securely on the ground while visiting Up Top.

I could go on but I’m boring myself, much in the same way “Upside Down” bored me with its wimpy little love story and its overblown metaphor. Looking at half the screen upside down is disorienting and, while cool at first, quickly loses its charm. Very quickly, it just seems distracting and obvious, like most everything else in this film.

There’s one performance that’s not: Timothy Spall, as an adventurous Up-Top office mate of Adam. Spall has a bluff, devilish air that made me wish that Solanas, who wrote and directed, had the wit to turn him into a double-agent, instead of an ally for the drippy Adam.

Which brings us to Jim Sturgess: Who is it that keeps casting this guy in movies? He has zero charm and the talent to match. His range is limited to goofy smiles and pained looks of unrequited love – all that’s required for this film.

“Upside Down” is so slight that it doesn’t bear comparison to all the other dystopian fantasies it calls to mind, from “Brazil” to last year’s “Total Recall” remake. Or even to that almost 50-year-old “Star Trek”episode.

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