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Film review: Collateral Beauty – Will Smith leads all-star cast in ridiculous tear-jerker

A-list cast look all at sea in a truly terrible movie that makes impossible demands on its audience and wastes the collective talent of its stars

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 December, 2016, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 11:11am

1/5 stars

The producers of Collateral Beauty have done a marvellous job in managing to persuade so many A-list stars to appear in a thoroughly appalling movie. One can only presume they paid the actors – who include Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley and Kate Winslet – such a lot of money that they threw good taste to the wind and plunged in with their eyes shut.

For the film really is bad in every conceivable way. Even the stars don’t seem to have a clue why their characters are doing what they’re doing. The story is at best a mess, and at worst ludicrous. Smith plays a partner in an advertising company who falls to pieces after the death of his young daughter. As the company is losing valuable business due to his mental state, his alleged friends and business partners engineer a plot to make him look insane so they can fire him.

Will Smith and Helen Mirren on exploring love, life and death in Collateral Beauty

Noticing that he writes letters to death, time, and love, they hire three stage performers to portray these abstract qualities for real, in the hope of getting some dirt on him. That’s where Mirren, Knightley, and Jacob Latimore come in.

The filmmakers make impossible demands on the audience, asking us to believe that the mere sight of Mirren with back-combed hair would instantly convince someone that they had an unearthly visitor from another dimension. Film is a medium for conjurors, and similar tricks have worked in movies such as Truly, Madly, Deeply. But here, the sights of time, love and death wandering the streets look ridiculous.

Equally confusing is why anyone would root for the trio of business partners – even if they are played by Norton, Winslet, and Michael Peña – whose aim is to get their grief-stricken friend fired so that they can sell the company. Director David Frankel once came up with The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Marley & Me (2008), but Collateral Beauty is no more than a mess.

Collateral Beauty opens on December 29

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