By Scott Kurland
Film: Collateral Beauty
Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, and Helen Mirren
Director: David Frankel
Can I pose an honest question? What happened to Will Smith? Furthermore, how has the former number one box office draw (for a better part of the 90s and early 2000s anyway) turn out so many poorly received movies since 2012? One problem is that he’s trying too hard to be Will Smith. If you saw “Focus” or “Suicide Squad”, you would know that most of his performances included those classic Will Smith camera mugs. When Smith isn’t making blockbusters, he's chasing after Oscar Gold. If this sounds like a wild accusation, just watch the trailer for “Concussion” when he shouts: “TELL THE TRUTH! TELL THE TRUTH!” If that doesn’t scream "give me an Oscar," I don’t know what does. This week’s film “Collateral Beauty” is another example of Smith trying to prove he is a serious Oscar contender. Let’s find out if this film has that “Miracle on 34th Street” magic shall we?
“Collateral Beauty” stars Smith as Howard, the CEO of an advertising firm suffering from the loss of his daughter who died of a rare disease. Howard has spent the last three years ignoring his company and partners (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena), who are worried about Howards mental state. As Howard falls deeper into his depression, he writes and mails three letters to Love, Death, and Time. Strangely enough, Howard is visited by Love (Keira Knightley), Death (Helen Mirren), and Time (Jacob Latimore) who urge Howard to allow his friends to help heal his wounded heart. Will Howard get his life together and see the collateral beauty in the world? Or will he end up alone and miserable?
This film is an example of a movie that does not live up to its potential. This is not a whimsical slice-of-life film about a man who moves past his pain like the trailer would have you believe. Honestly, whoever cut that trailer deserves all the awards in the world, because the trailer made me want to see this film. The trailer comes across as a Frank Capra-sque “It’s A Wonderful Life” film, but in truth this is a CW pilot disguised as schlock. This a mean film about terrible people who do terrible things to one another. And why do they do it? For selfish gain of course. I did not like this movie in the slightest and, in all honesty, I can’t tell you the real reason why without spoiling the film for you. I will say that you see the twists coming a mile away, and this film is too smug for its own good.
A lot of reviewers are saying that this film is too much of a Holiday film and I disagree with that. This isn’t a holiday film. This isn’t even a family film, or a drama. “Collateral Beauty” has some of the worst dialogue and character development I have ever seen. The motivations of some of the characters are justified, but the rest of the characters (including Will Smith) are terrible people. Smith is supposed to be our sympathetic hero that we’re meant to empathize with. Alas, the Fresh Prince is given the worst character in the film. Losing a child is quit possibly the worst thing in the world to happen to anyone. Smith’s Howard is shown to be a Scrooge-like character whose child died years before the film starts and her death became the catalyst for his transformation into a monster. He cares about nothing including himself, his family that he estranges or the six thousand employees who will become unemployed because he wants everyone to suffer like him. Norton, Winslet, and Pena are just as selfish and yet, they’re kinder people, who happen to be selfish for the right reasons.
The director this film is David Frankel, the man who brought us “The Devil Wears Prada”, a film I actually like. Frankel’s vision is never fully realized on the screen. It becomes apparent that halfway through filming he realized that no one would like these characters or the film and he gave up. Everything about “Collateral Beauty” is tiring. How tiring you ask? The woman sitting next to me at the screening came in with a cocktail and halfway through the film had to get two more drinks just to get through the rest. If that doesn’t scream "crap," I don’t know what does. Also I should mention.... it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
As I said before, I was looking forward to “Collateral Beauty” after seeing the trailer. I thought that this would be a throwback to old Hollywood Christmas films like “Miracle On 34th Street”, and it wasn’t. “Collateral Beauty” is one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I have ever had in a theater and not just because everyone was drinking heavily to rally through the film. It also has to do with respecting your characters and your audience. Save your money and skip “Collateral Beauty” or, as I call it, Warner Brothers wants Will Smith to get an Oscar.
REVIEW RATING: D-