Collateral Beauty (PG-13)

With a cast of stars that includes Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley, a lot was expected from Collateral Beauty.  Not from me, of course.  It looked like it was going to be corny as heck, so I had to do a lot of mind-clearing before sitting down for this one, honestly.  The reviews have not been kind, from what I’ve heard, and a lot of people seem to be really disappointed with the movie, as it has already landed on Yahoo’s list of the 10 worst movies of 2016. I had to see for myself.

Will Smith plays Howard, a man who has become despondent over the death of his 6 year old daughter. This detachment from life threatens to destroy the successful business he and his three friends (Norton, Winslet and Peña) have built up.  Howard’s coworkers hatch a plan (enlisting the assistance of Mirren, Knightly and this cute kid named Jacob Lattimore) to ruin Howard (pretty much) so they can save the business.

Obviously, the cast is chock full of talent. The concept of the story is actually interesting when you delve into the story and watch it.  The actors do a generally decent job, so it cannot be said that the movie fails in execution, exactly.  So what is the problem with this movie?

The main problem with the movie is in the writing. The story itself becomes so ridiculous at one point it is unfathomable. Even using my open-minded, movie-going mindset I could not get to a point where I could buy the nonsense they were selling.  Some things do not make sense in the real world or the fantasy world.  Anyone who read this script could have said, “This could actually be a great story, except for this stupid part right here.  There are no six adults with brains in their heads who would come up with such a silly idea and actually try to go through with it believing they would get away with it.  This needs to be rewritten.”  Even when the movie was actually filming, it had to feel wrong to everyone involved.  Actually, you can tell it felt wrong.  You can see it go wrong.  And that is what ruined this movie.

If you read me regularly, you know I cannot stand an otherwise “clean” movie that contains one cuss word. It speaks to the lack of vision for the type of movie one wants to create, in my opinion.  If there is just one curse word, surely the movie can be done just as well with none.

There were some chemistry and miscasting problems here, as well. In an effort to cram big names into a movie to get butts into seats at theaters someone dropped the ball on making sure a good story, that makes sense, and is worth telling was was being told.

The movie is set around the holiday season and attempts to mirror movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol, with angels and spirits and such, and the learning of lessons like appreciating your life, being kinder, loving your loved ones, building relationships, the restoration of hope, etc.,  but Collateral Beauty deals with too many dark subjects, (such as death and dying and mind numbing, paralyzing grief, depression, mortality, infertility, illness, betrayal, to name just a few!), so it really never gets to give you the feelings those films do.  You get too bogged down in too much heaviness to ever be properly elevated to the light, uplifting part.

Also, Will Smith is billed as the main character, but he’s so busy being depressed and despondent, he doesn’t really talk very much here. He grimaces, he sighs, he sulks, he shakes his head yes or no in response to some questions, some of the time – if he answers at all.  He rides his bike…  He purses his lips.  He rides his bike…  He ignores people.  He rides his bike…  It’s probably not so, but it felt as though he had more camera time and less dialogue than anyone else in the movie, which really isn’t the most entertaining thing to watch.  It’s actually pretty frustrating.  The saving grace of the entire film was the beautiful shots of New York.

Alas… Collateral Beauty earned a somewhat painful 5 out of 10 bloops. I didn’t think it is a terrible movie, or even unwatchable.  It is a so-so movie that is worth watching if you don’t have to pay for it.  It really did have some redeeming qualities and even some good performances, but it could not overcome that horribly ridiculous writing.  And that’s a pity, because Will Smith’s performance (as little as he actually got to say) was pretty good, and this is coming from someone who is not his biggest fan. No need to go out into the cold for this one.  Stream it when it becomes available if you’re a fan of any of the many Oscar nominees and/or winners in this cast, so you can be equally as frustrated as I was by Smith’s brooding, sulking, silence/biking, and that utterly ridiculous portion of the story line that failed this talented cast.


Next up: Passengers

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