Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 14, 2013
Negative five stars (out of four)
An instant landmark of crap, “Upside Down” begins with an interminable voiceover as Adam (the permanently earnest Jim Sturgess of “Cloud Atlas”) utters, “The universe is so full of wonders,” and, “Gravity. They say you can’t fight it. Well, I disagree. What if love was stronger than gravity?”
Before you can start singing “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked,” the epically dreadful sci-fi/romance “Upside Down” becomes a black hole of pretentious self-parody. Put this concept in your pipe and spit it out: the very deliberately named Adam and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) grew up in worlds that exist on top of each other, with opposite gravity. Since people of the future are super creative, they dub the worlds “Up Top” and the lower-class “Down Below.” The best restaurant at Up Top is called “Café Dos Mundos,” or Café Two Worlds.
When people from Down Below spend a few minutes Up Top, they burn. You’d expect that would be pretty noticeable. Yet when Adam and Eden reconnect 10 years after Down Below’s military fires at them and she suffers an amnesia-causing head injury, she somehow doesn’t notice his smoky ankles or the flames coming from his feet.
“Are you OK?” she asks, oblivious to the evidence. No, he is not.
While the notion of opposite worlds and upside-down relationships allows Dunst an inversion of her kiss with Spider-Man, writer-director Juan Solanas forgets to establish any relationship between the two characters whose love could supposedly defy this dystopia’s already-questionable laws of physics. (He also misses an opportunity to include Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling.”)
Somehow adolescent Adam tossing a paper plane to Eden gets full credit for their instant romantic bond. When Adam discovers Eden’s alive, not yet knowing she doesn’t remember him, she’s working at a world-bridging company that’s happy to dismiss their “No People From Negative Floors Can Go on Positive Floors” rule if Adam will share the secret of the anti-aging cream he’s developing with his late Aunt Becky’s pink bee goo. Really. He apparently sees no problem that he has no evident science background and tests the formula on a model head—and then a dog.
Solanas, who neglects to establish the details of his vision on screen and actually uses a stamp collection as a plot point, obviously thought he was making an Orwellian, "Romeo and Juliet meets Adam and Eve" story. He wasn’t.
In truly mind-boggling fashion, the film teases a sequel with a serious dramatic revelation that's nearly identical to a hilarious plot development from the intentionally funny classic “Wet Hot American Summer.” No one is being dumped because of tasting like a burger. It’s much, much worse.
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