The Bock’s Office: ‘Collateral Beauty’ has sadness to spare, not much story | CraigDailyPress.com
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The Bock’s Office: ‘Collateral Beauty’ has sadness to spare, not much story

Howard (Will Smith) is confronted by a woman claiming to be Death (Helen Mirren) in "Collateral Beauty." The movie is about a man grieving the loss of her daughter as his friends and business associates undertake unusual methods to help him.
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If you go...

“Collateral Beauty,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 96 minutes

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Would “A Christmas Carol” have the same kind of emotional impact if it turned out Bob Cratchit was behind the whole thing to force Ebenezer Scrooge to be a better person? There might be better ways to get a day off and a raise, but resurrecting the ghost of Jacob Marley for your own selfish purposes would still be more acceptable than the actions of “Collateral Beauty.”

If you go…

“Collateral Beauty,” rated PG-13

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 96 minutes

Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Helen Mirren

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.

Howard Inlet (Will Smith) used to live with purpose — the founder of a successful advertising firm, a loving husband and father and an altogether great friend.

That was before the before the death of his 6-year-old daughter.

Now, two years later, Howard is divorced, barely able to communicate, and his business is on the brink of collapse.

As much as his partners (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Michael Peña) can appreciate his need to grieve, his inability to function is about to destroy their entire company.

The only choice they see to stay afloat is for a buy-out from a larger business, though Howard’s control of company stock makes that unlikely.

In order to subvert Howard, his associates decide on an unorthodox method to get what they need — they hire a troupe of actors (Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Helen Mirren) to portray Love, Time and Death and interact with Howard under the guise of being sent by the universe in his time of need.

Best-case scenario: the experience will rouse him out of his funk and get him back to the man he once was.

Worst-case: they can use footage of the encounters to declare their boss mentally unfit.

Smith keeps jumping into heavy dramatic roles, and it’s not that he isn’t convincing enough as a broken person, it’s that his usual charismatic self always shines through too much.

An opening scene of Howard boldly speaking of love, time and death as the guiding elements of his business — Surely there must be some other parts of the ad game? — is the Fresh Prince we know and adore, and it sets an expectation from there, making it so it’s too much to accept that this is the same guy who rides his bike through New York traffic, no longer caring if he lives and spends the rest of his time lurking around outside parental mourning meetings.

His habit of setting up elaborate domino displays, then knocking them down without watching? Not sure if that’s supposed to be a coping mechanism to both create and destruct to express rage or just a way to pass the time, but it gets old quickly.

It’s not hard to understand his colleagues as you learn all their trials. Winslet’s Claire is fearing that her career will go up in smoke after giving up her personal life, while Peña’s Simon is hiding a terminal illness from his friends and family and only wants to be able to leave a nest egg for his loved ones.

Norton’s Whit, on the other hand, is a hard sell. His life mirrors Howard’s in that he is no longer with his wife and daughter, but his divorce is due to an affair and his kid (Kylie Rogers) simply won’t talk to him because she hates him.

Well, at least he’s good to his senile mother (Mary Beth Peil).

Enter the thespians, who suddenly appear just when this trio needs an answer to save their jobs and could use a friendly ear or two for their own problems.

You can use the rationalization that this is just a movie, but anyone who pulled an unforgivable stunt like the one against Howard would not only be friendless, they’d also eventually be in jail. It’s far too much to swallow that good intentions are enough to justify anyone resorting to this kind of manipulation, no matter the circumstances.

The horrific premise and saccharine script notwithstanding, the high-quality cast almost makes you believe these are real people trying to make do with the hand they’re dealt by life.

It’s Howard’s individual journey and search for meaning that makes or breaks the film, and it’s one that just can’t appeal to everyone, even though his mindset is implied to be one with which we can all empathize.

No.

We can all sympathize, but only a select few who have had that monumental tragedy happen can truly appreciate it, and any story about a parent grieving for a lost child needs to tread lightly for that exact reason. Perhaps Smith’s performance will touch your heart for the right reason, but that seems about as probable as someone desperate enough to believe in a stranger who claims to be a personification of an abstract concept.

The title of “Collateral Beauty” comes from the idea that even at its worst moments, there is still so much wonder in the grand picture of this thing we call life. That may be true, but the makers of this movie didn’t need to test that theory by putting so much ugliness front and center.

Point made and disregarded.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.


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