It’s almost impossible to take this holiday-themed Will Smith weepie seriously
“Collateral Beauty” is a high-wire act that starts off steady, gets wobbly in the middle and by the end crashes to the floor.
It’s a holiday movie with Hallmark Channel DNA that should star Jaleel White and Judith Light but somehow snagged a top-line cast that includes Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley and Edward Norton.
That cast does its best to sell a story about love, loss and grief that is so shmaltzy it should come with a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates. But the script (by “Here Comes the Boom” screenwriter Allan Loeb) presents a fairy -ale vision so flimsy it’s impossible to take it seriously.
Will Smith plays Howard Inlet, an NYC ad whiz who gives buzzword-heavy inspirational speeches to his staff; three years later he’s a shell of himself after losing his daughter to cancer. Now he slumps around, rides his bicycle into oncoming traffic and builds elaborate domino installations around his office, much to the dismay of his fellow agency owners (Norton and Winslet).
Inlet has taken to writing brooding letters to time, death and love, and his friends decide to hire actors to embody those characters to approach Howard in his everyday life. (“Are they trying to make him crazy?” you ask. They are, in part, so he will sell his stake in the company. That’s business!) As it turns out, Howard’s not the only one who needs visits from time, death and love, and there are plenty of life lessons to go around that feel like they could have been placed inside fortune cookies.
The movie’s title comes from the idea that from great chaos can come great beauty. Nice thought, but watching “Collateral Beauty,” all you can think about is damage.
Rated PG-13: for thematic elements and brief strong language
Running time: 97 minutes