HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Collateral Beauty
HTS Overall Score:71
Will Smith hasn’t been having that great of a time in the box office lately. He’s trying SOOOOOOOOO hard to have another breakout dramatic hit that he seems to have lost sight of his fan base and what made him great to begin with. I’ve watched him jump from movie to movie past 2008 with little to no success, which is a very sad thing considering he was such an important part of my growing up. I will say this, no matter what he’s in, Will Smith is the most charismatic piece of the puzzle. Smith isn’t the PERFECT actor, but his powerful charisma and energy makes the room come alive. But for some reason he can’t seem to catch a break anymore, which honestly puzzles me. Just watching his recent works, you can see that the man still has the ability to do what he does best, but the scripts and projects he chooses just seem to be the ones for B movie actors rather than a powerhouse like Smith. I will admit that “Collateral Beauty” gave me brief hope, as I saw the trailer and was immediately intrigued. It looked sappy and sweet, but there was this little bit of energy within Smith that gave me hope that “Collateral Beauty” could be at least entertaining. Unfortunately, the movie got SLAMMED theatrically. Like completely and utterly run over with a steam roller and back type of slammed. Personally I take everything critically said about a movie with a grain of salt (as anyone reading MY reviews should be doing too) and hoped that it was just a case of “overly sappy movie burnout” and the movie would at least be watchable. Well, they weren’t wrong. “Collateral Beauty” is a train wreck of epic proportions. A movie that has you marveling at just HOW this monstrosity could have been made. The warning signs seem to be screaming at the actors/directors/producers every step of the way, but they keep wading into those deep waters until the top closes over them and swallows what’s left.
I can’t exactly keep too many spoilers from this review. I do apologize, but there’s so many twists and turns and “surprises” along the way I’d literally be able to describe the trailer and just end with an opinion if I followed my normal practice of trying be discreet. So if you’re worried about spoilers just skip to the conclusion. We all know what the trailer portrayed. Will Smith lost his daughter some years back and is visited by the ghosts of Christma……err, Time (Jacob Lattimore), Death (Helen Mirren), and Love (Kiera Knightley), who try and show him the beauty that is left in life after loss. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The film starts out his Howard (Will Smith) loses his daughter. He’s a brilliant marketing genius who has built up a highly successful firm with his best friend Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena). The film then jumps to the present where it’s been 2 years since his daughter’s death. Howard is just about comatose in his grief and spends most of his time building domino structures while his firm is spiraling into decay. Because he owns 60% of the company, his friend and partner Whit can’t do anything to turn the head without Howard’s say-so, and Howard is MIA at the helm. That is until he, Claire and Simon figure out a brilliant idea. Get three actors to play “Death”, “Time” and “Love” and act like they’re the ACTUAL Death, Time and Love in order to get enough evidence to oust Howard from his controlling seat at the table (brilliant move, right?).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93562[/img]Yeah, we can already see where this is going. Each of the three actors ply Howard with their platitudes and Whit and the other executives watch while the once powerful man is reduced to ashes. It all seems so painful, but “necessary”, as these people are trying to save a company, and hopefully save their friend as well. The problem is that the idea is so ludicrous and clichéd that you can’t help but have your jaw hanging between your knees wondering just who approved this debacle. Smith does an OK job with the role that he’s given, but the rest feels like it’s taken from a “self-help” book and slapped on screen. To make things even more confusing we find out that each of the other executives have their own pain to deal with. Whit has a daughter who hates his guts because he and her mother got divorced (something “Love” can help with), and Simon is actually dying of a painful disease (yeah, you guessed it, “Death” is going to help him out), and there’s the completely shoe horned few moments where it’s revealed that Claire has been working herself to the bone for years and has made no life for a family, and now here biological clock is ticking (yup, that means “Time” is the only one to console her with a little “Confucius say” fortune cookie). But really, it’s the ENDING that really had me almost throw my popcorn bag across the room. It’s supposed to be a shocking reveal, but I saw it coming from a mile away and was just BEGGING that they weren’t going to go that route. You can almost see the actors looking at the audience and begging them for the Oscars in mid tear.
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93570[/img]Well, at least the video is great. Warner has given “Collateral Beauty” a fantastic looking 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray that just looks stunning in motion. Clear clean, the digitally shot image looks impeccably precise, with a fairly neutral looking color grading. Skin tones are well balanced and the contrast levels are pinpoint accurate. The primary colors just pop off the screen in the holiday set time of year, with the bright red of Christmas balls looking crimson and deep, while the whites and blues of the sterile looking office manages to be extremely appealing despite the lack of any sumptuous coloring. Blacks are deep and inky with no signs of crush or washed out levels, and fine detailing is exquisite. You can see very pore and tear streaming down Smith’s face, and the intimate details like clothing and building textures leave nothing to the imagination. I’m EXTREMELY sad that Warner didn’t give this one a 4K UHD release, as the film just lends itself to eye candy, but the Blu-ray is still almost perfect.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=93578[/img]“Collateral Beauty” is what I like to call a perfect representation of a sad drama. It’s heavily dialog centric and that naturally keeps most of the heavy lifting in the front three speakers, but also utilizes some rather precise use of the surrounds that give it a very homey and pleasing auditory experience without every delving into demo worthy range. The front soundstage is impeccably balanced, with each and every sound having a unique texture and tone to it. You can hear the creaking of bicycle wheels despite the droning score (sorry, it’s well done on a technical level, but you can just hear the manipulative emotional strings being pulled with every chord), and the vocals never feel underpowered or overbearing no matter if someone is yelling or whispering. LFE is tight and constrained, but added in judiciously to accompany the music or add to the thunder of a subway train. Surrounds get some decent use here and there, mostly to add a sense of envelopment with the big city noises, and the rumbling and roaring of the undergrounds subway. It’s a well done track, and fits very nicely in the cubbyhole of the front heavy dramatic film genre.
• A Modern Fable: Discovering "Collateral Beauty"
I’m actually really saddened by the failure of “Collateral Beauty”. I really am. The cast was phenomenal in casting, and there was more talent on screen than most movies can ever hope for. Mirren, Norton, Smith, Winslet, Pena (who I usually adore), Knightley, and Naomie Harris. The trailer looked pretty decent, but with all that talent, and all that effort I was actually horrified how badly this experiment turned out. I usually try to find the good in every movie I see (sometimes over grading them as a result), but I just can’t, with any clear conscience, give this one any more than 2 stars. The audio and video are fantastic, but that still can’t buoy a sinking ship, and this ship is at the bottom of the ocean. Skip It.
Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet
Directed by: David Frankel
Written by: Allan Loeb
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 97 Minutes
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Recommendation: Skip It
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