Movie Review: ‘Collateral Beauty’
Right before the year’s end, Hollywood has released one last clunker theaters. On the outside, Collateral Beauty looks like it has plenty to offer including an all-star cast, Christmas backdrop, and a magical undertone. But on the inside you get a premise so utterly ridiculous your head might explode out of frustration. It’s a dramedy with a tone that goes from grim to eccentric in an instant. The filmmaker’s apparent goal was to create a hybrid of It’s a Wonderful Life and Love, Actually but even fans of the sappiest Christmas movie won’t buy the cringe-inducing premise and artificial sentiment.
Bogus plots are nothing new. Even with the most outlandish plots, some movies can be constructed in which the audience can look pass the absurdity. Something like Mrs. Doubtfire and Footloose shouldn’t work but they do because performances, tone, and a sincerity were assembled around bizarre premises. But unlike those flawed classics, Collateral Beauty simply does not work.
Collateral Beauty focuses on a successful adman named Howard (Will Smith) who’s fallen into a deep two year despair after his child dies. The once motivated speaker has become a recluse who shows up to his job only to build elaborate domino sculptures. Concerned about the failing company and Howard’s well-being, his three colleagues (Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, and Edward Norton) formulate a plan that is so unusual and deceptive that it sounds like a rejected idea for a Seinfeld episode. They decide to hire three out of work thespians (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Jacob Latimore) to play the physical concepts (Death, Love, and Time) Howard has been writing to in order to prove to the Board that he is mentally unfit to run the company. Although the characters do this with good intentions, their plan is rather sinister and far fetched. And perhaps, these thespians might teach the co-workers a thing or two about their own personal struggles.
The cast is obviously a talented variety of actors. You have Oscar winners, A-listers, new comers, and veterans in the cast. And if there is a silver lining it’s that the actors sell this dumpster fire- especially Will Smith. While Smith is playing a Phelp’s face come to life, he actually does a rather fine job. The entire cast click up their charm and appeal. Knightley is sort of charismatic, Mirren is sort of funny, and Winslet has some heart. You can’t blame the actors on this one. It’s a great ensemble but you have to wonder how so many big stars (or agents) read the script and believed the premise was any good.
There is a disconnect between the characters and their intentions. They seem like good hearted people but framing your boss for insanity after his child dies during the holidays seems better suited as a Seth Rogen comedy or David Fincher thriller not a light hearted dramedy. Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel misses the mark. The movie is all over the place in tone and structure. It jumps from story to story like a badly glued collage. And even without the ridiculous plot, the movie still feels overly sappy with awful dialog and situations. Even the Hallmark Channel will be rolling its eyes with the manufactured sentiment.
There are only a couple reasons to check out Collateral Beauty. One, is to check out one of your favorite stars on the big screen. But perhaps the best viewing experience is to take some friends, down some eggnog, and have fun with the absurdity of the whole movie. It’s not the movie’s intention but plenty of humor can ensue for all the wrong reasons.
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