Hot Poppin' Culture News From New York City

Will Smith Fights Through Sappiness to Keep ‘Collateral Beauty’ Real (video)

Will Smith plays a distraught ad executive who loses his daughter. He fights through his despair with the help of some close friends. (Photo: Studio)

It can’t be easy being Will Smith. His latest movie, “Collateral Beauty,” puts him back in the spotlight in one of his more nuanced roles. The part is a far cry from his out-sized characters in blockbusters like “Men in Black,” “Independence Day” and “Suicide Squad.”

But Smith has the range to handle intimate character studies as well as big-screen action figures.

He’s shown as much in past films such as “Six Degrees Of Separation,” “Concussion” and 2015’s “Focus,” with Margot Robbie.

“Collateral Beauty’s ensemble cast gives the movie high hopes. It includes Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton, Jacob Latimore, Michael Peña and Naomie Harris.

Despite the stellar lineup, however, critics have savaged the picture. Mercifully, it’s only been lightly reviewed. Of the 13 critics who have weighed in on the film, 11 have panned it… brutally, in most cases.

“You’ll … struggle to accept that what you saw on that screen actually played in theaters, was funded and approved by distributors, took a month or so of the lives of those extraordinary actors,” writes Village Voice critic Alan Scherstuhl.

Even The Hollywood Reporter and Variety have panned the movie. When both trade rags give a thumbs down, that means something’s amiss.

The overriding knock among reviewers is the movie’s sappiness, which apparently strains credulity. But if you can get over that, the film has something to offer in its message of hope, meaning and connection.

Smith is a master of the close up. He plays a high-flying ad executive who loses his young daughter.

He retreats from life into dark place in more ways than one. He spends his time writing notes to “Love,” “Time” and “Death.” He now considers them his three new companions.

His business partners, played by Norton, Winslet and Peña have an offer they can’t refuse to sell their company. But the need Smith to sign off on the deal.

So, they hatch a plan to have three actors play “Love,” “Time” and “Death.” They hope it will bringing Smith out of his funk. Mirren, Knightley and Latimore actually pull it off.

Mirren, as a hammy-actor is pitch-perfect and by the end of the movie, you wonder is she isn’t some sort of cosmic connection after all. Luminescent Knightley is exquisite and Latimore spot-on.

Norton’s character is estranged from his daughter. Pena is suffering from a fatal disease, while Winslet’s character is fighting her biological clock. Amazingly, the three actors also resolve these personal issues as well, which works terrifically.

Directed by David Frankel (“Marley & Me,” “The Devil Wears Prada”) from a script by David Loeb (“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”), the movie moves at a nice clip.

In the end, Smith has awakened from his despair and begins a relationship with a grief counselor.

If you buy the premise, you buy the movie. Smith, as always, is his reliable self; you want to like him and you do.

The film opens Dec. 16. Check out the trailer below.

Subscribe To TheImproper's Email Newsletters, Free!