Every December the number of movies gunning for the Oscars seems to increase and Will Smith's latest drama, Collateral Beauty, is just one of this year's many Academy Awards hopefuls. Alongside Will Smith is an all-star cast that includes Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Kate Winslet, with the director of The Devil Wears Prada calling the shots.
With a combination like that, one would expect Collateral Beauty to either be a surefire hit or at least a decent tearjerker. But if early reviews and initial reception are to be believed, Collateral Beauty is not just a holiday themed disappointment, but a lie no one saw coming.
Spoilers for Collateral Beauty ahead. Read at your own risk.
The trailers for Collateral Beauty promised a modern day retelling and/or homage to Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol. While this may not be the most original idea for a holiday movie and even if it came across as saccharine to some, Collateral Beauty's plot was still something that interested some people.
Three years after the tragic death of his beloved daughter, Howard (Will Smith) writes letters to Love, Time and Death in his desperate search for a meaning to his suffering. Then during the holiday season, Love, Time and Death walk up to Howard and provide him with the answers he thought he wanted.
Check out the trailer for Collateral Beauty below.
Apparently, the concepts of Love, Time and Death are not just actual people but actors hired by Howard's supposed friends (played by Edward Norton, Michael Peña and Kate Winslet). They do this to convince the board of directors that Howard is clinically insane, and therefore unable to continue his job as the company's boss. They do so because they're worried about their job security.
Not only is this plot incredibly ill-conceived, but it is also highly disrespectful in regards to its depictions of mental illness and to those who suffer from depression or a loss in the family.
Collateral Beauty's real story never made it to any of the promotional material or interviews. This prompted many to believe that the movie's studio and producers balked at the finished product and decided to mislead potential audiences.
The reception for Collateral Beauty was not nice, to say the least. It currently sits at an abysmal 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and it could drop lower as more reviews pour in.
Here are some choice quotes from different film critics and reviewers who had some strong words to say about Collateral Beauty.
Chicago Sun Times - Richard Roeper
“Collateral Beauty” is a fraud. It is built on a foundation so contrived, so off-putting, so treacly, the most miraculous thing about this movie is this movie was actually made.
Collider - Matt Goldberg
For a film that thinks it’s being uplifting and inspiring, Collateral Beauty is arguably the most offensive and insipid major Hollywood film this year. To call it “misguided” would be a compliment.
Rogerebert.com - Susan Wloszczyna
I don’t think I've witnessed a film this year that managed to so completely and utterly collapse into crass garbage in its last few minutes while abusing what little goodwill it has.
The New York Times - Manohla Dargis
Many of the words that I would like to use to describe this waste of talent and time... can’t be lobbed in a family publication. So, instead, I will just start by throwing out some permissible insults: artificial, clichéd, mawkish, preposterous, incompetent, sexist, laughable, insulting.
Time - Stephanie Zacharek
Every so often there comes a movie so tasteless, so nakedly pandering, so bodaciously ill conceived that you’ve got to see it to believe it... it’s enough to make you wonder what you ever did in life to deserve such a movie.
Toronto Star - Peter Howell
It’s an appalling waste of talent, as well as our time, but director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) and writer Allan Loeb (The Switch) may see the “collateral beauty” of having made the year’s worst studio movie.
The general consensus paints a very negative picture for this modern-day spin on A Christmas Carol, with many citing the manipulative story and intent as Collateral Beauty's worst aspect. The film was designed and engineered to rake in as many awards as possible, but by religiously following the metaphorical checklist of movie tropes and elements that are sure to please the awards body, Collateral Beauty turned itself into the epitome of cynical melodrama.
This follows on the heels of Samuel L. Jackson's recent scathing comments regarding Oscar Bait movies. One of the movies he dissed was Collateral Beauty, which he didn't think highly of when he saw the trailer, so it isn't hard to imagine what Jackson would have to say after actually watching the movie.
Samuel L. Jackson: I was looking at the trailer for this Will Smith movie the other day and I’m like, really? It’s another one of those, ‘Oh my God, life is so wonderful, take time to sniff the roses.’
The Unexpected Legacy
Will Smith and his co-stars are credited for delivering performances that range from serviceable to decent. But given the material they had to work with, one has to wonder why such accomplished and talented actors would sign up for something as pandering as Collateral Beauty.
Collateral Beauty has yet to open in the country where I live, but it's definitely something I'll see - though not for the reasons the movie's creators were hoping. It's possible that Collateral Beauty will be this year's infamous classic, like Tommy Wiseau's The Room or Josh Trank's Fant4stic. Which would make Collateral Beauty something so inherently wrong and flawed that has to be seen to be believed.