By: Felix Felicis (Four Beers) –
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to crawl out of a twelve hour hangover to write a review after the annual office Christmas party left you curled in the fetal position around a bottle of Gatorade for the better part of a day, imagine a million very tiny, very angry spears of light are stabbing you in the eyeballs. Margaritas should never be blue. Just trust me on that. Also trust me when I say that Nicholas Sparks would wet himself with excitement if he ever sits down to Collateral Beauty because this movie has it ALL. Dead kids, selfish co-workers in need of some harsh life lessons, actors impersonating the concepts of DEATH, TIME, and LOVE, emotional blackmail of a paying audience, tiny dragons, YOU NAME IT and this movie HAS IT. Okay. So maybe there weren’t any tiny dragons.
Collateral Beauty is straight up cut-and-print, copy-and-pasted tearjerker fodder for the holidays. Or any day you feel like wallowing in an ocean of feels, really. We open on Will Smith as “Howard”, hereafter referred to as Sad Monosyllabic Rain Man (SMRM for short), giving a SUPER OBVIOUS pep talk to his… Advertising? Marketing? Important White Collar Rich People Company on the concepts that make money. There are three. They’re, drum roll please, love, death, and time. People need love, want more time, and fear death so that’s what makes money. I’ll be honest, right about here is where I started regretting the choices in my life that led to this moment. But wait! There’s more! And don’t worry, there’s no foreplay just a wham, bam, thank-you-ma’am “three years later” (two years? whatever) title card to segue into the “broken man with his company going down the drain after his daughter dies and he loses the will to live” schtick.
So SMRM’s partners get together and hire some “actors” to portray the concepts of love, death, and time (all of which Mr. Crazypants has written actual, physical letters to. Which is enough to sell me on his cray right there. Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t just tweet at them) to get SMRM to spiral out and lose voting control of the company so they can, literally and figuratively, sell him out. Morally ambiguous shenanigans ensue in which everyone learns a life lesson, or doesn’t, in time for you to predict the twist-within-a-twist before the credits roll and you can army crawl to the nearest bar for a beer.
There’s a part of me, a deep, dark part of my soul that loves cheesy, schmaltzy, over-the-top Christmas movies. That part of my soul is adjacent to the part of my soul that loves movies that are full-on train wrecks. Collateral Beauty spoke to both of those soul splinters and delivered exactly what it promised and I can’t even be that mad about it. Much like the hot mess that was Suicide Squad earlier this year, Collateral Beauty taken as a whole is an incoherent blender filled with predictable story arcs, messy editing, and flat, uninspiring characters but, watched as a series of vignettes (once the Stockholm Syndrome has kicked in around minute 45 or so) is tolerable. Mad props to Helen Mirren, Kiera Knightley, and relative newcomer Jacob Latimore for their portrayals of Death, Love, and Time, respectively. Even when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what an emotionally manipulative, shitbrick of a gaslighting-excuse-of-a-film Collateral Beauty was, I couldn’t help but be sucked in, a little bit, when these three were on the screen in their “roles”. Imagine A Christmas Carol had a hell-baby with a dealer’s choice Nicholas Sparks movie et voila! Collateral Beauty has been spawned.
The Notebook 2 (Start on minute 4:00) is bae.
Fuck this movie for slapping a patronizing resolution bow on top of a surviving parent’s pain. Of all the lazy, emotionally manipulative movies I’ve watched (some I’ve even enjoyed *cough* P.S. I Love You *cough*) Collateral Beauty treats survivor’s grief like a roadblock and does it with all the grace and elegance of a tearjerking sledgehammer. SMRM’s kid in this movie is reduced to ONE flashback, a couple mentions, and an Act Three video montage and we’re supposed to believe this man, a guy who looked like someone just mugged him in order to squeeze out a tear, is so broken he can’t function in the real world but juuuuuuust redeemable enough to come back from the edge with a little make-believe pretend playtime? BRB, just have to go break something in my house that’s easily replaceable… Aaaaaand I’m back. Collateral Beauty was offensively predictable in the worst way; a collection of strung together platitudes preying on the sentimentality of a society ready to feel something, anything, after what may arguably be the worst year ever. To them I say, just light a dumpster on fire and save yourselves the price of admission.
The only thing being jerked harder than tears in Collateral Beauty was the choppy editing and transitional act changes. Not to mention a plot more convoluted than the collective Kardashian/Jenner clan’s “currently dating/baby daddy” flowchart. The film flows from point A to point B running on “just because” fumes and glosses over any and all obstacles in the way (leaping gaps in logic so big the entire rationale behind a sequel to Blade Runner could fit in there).
No. Just… no.
Collateral Beauty tries WAY too hard to keep you guessing by using a twist-within-a-twist-within-a-twist. I don’t know if screenwriter Allan Loeb was missing his muse, Jennifer Aniston (he’s basically known for Just Go With It and The Switch) and binge-watched a weird mixture of Nicholas Sparks and M. Night Shyamalan movies for inspiration, but Collateral Beauty has literally every “twist” iron in the fire here, but none of them are actually surprises at all since the script basically follows the roadmap it beat you over the head with in Beer Two. It’s almost impressive how predictably convoluted Collateral Beauty is. Almost.
Will Smith phoned this one in. Kate Winslet was more memorable almost freezing to death on a door and Edward Norton’s failed turn playing The Hulk was- okay actually that one sucked more but it was better than Eric Bana’s Hulk. My point is that Collateral Beauty had a smorgasbord of talent and underused almost ALL of it. Aside from being an aggressively mediocre movie in general and a forgettable clusterfuck of cinematic crysturbation specifically, Collateral Beauty was a bland disappointment from start to finish. To its credit, Collateral Beauty delivers exactly the kind of movie it promises and fans of crying in public are gonna go NUTS for it, but just being watchable isn’t exactly the highest bar we should keep throwing money over.
If you’re looking to catch some quality feels at the box office this week, take a hard pass on the emotional fast food of Collateral Beauty and splurge on the decadently delightful Moana. It’s shiny.
Collateral Beauty (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every whackadoodle thing Howard (Will Smith) does.
Take a Sip: whenever Love, Time, and Death show up.
Take a Drink: anytime the dominoes take a dive.
Do a Shot: for each “twist”. Take Two: if you called it.