• by Wes Singleton

Collateral Beauty, D

Rated PG-13, 97 minutes

"Collateral Beauty" is one of the silliest and hokiest titles to one of the silliest and hokiest, not to mention highly manipulative, films of recent memory. It all ends up a rather unfortunate, muddled mess, wasting a terrific cast and what could've been a halfway decent premise.

When a successful New York advertising executive (Will Smith) suffers a great tragedy, he retreats from life. While his concerned friends (Michael Pena, Edward Norton and Kate Winslet) try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death (Keira Knightley, Jacob Lattimore and Helen Mirren, respectively). When his notes bring unexpected personal responses, he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

Directed by "The Devil Wears Prada's" David Frankel with a script from "Rock of Ages'" Allan Loeb, "Collateral Beauty" is code word for "Lifeless, Loveless and Time-Waster" and will rank as one of the season's biggest and dumbest disappointments, taking down an impressive cast and crew with it. If you really need this much help, it's time you seek professional help instead of writing some silly letters.

"Collateral Beauty" may be confusing dreck designed to inspire you, but at least it does it in a handsome, slick manner. Everyone here seems to be in crisis mode or on the edge of something significant, and it's their seemingly physical interactions with life, love and death that are supposed to change them, and the audience too, though its plot points are so confounding, laughable and unexplained, it will raise many more questions than answer them.

Of the large ensemble cast, Oscar-winner Mirren, in bright blue contacts and outfits, casts the biggest spell as the lead actress who is supposedly playing (or maybe not, who knows or cares, by the end) death, but she can't save the movie alone. Smith, in a take-the-money-and-run turn, seems disinterested here, while Oscar-winner Winslet is downright wasted in a role that would've been far more interesting had it not been so underwritten.

Loeb's manipulative, flimsy screenplay simply rings false, and you'll see it coming as each of the characters have interaction with each other based on what they're going through, but it ends up a contrived mess where Smith and company literally walk off hand in hand, all happy and put together again. If only things really worked that way.

"Collateral Beauty" wants to leave it up to you to determine what the real purpose here is, but good luck with that - you're much better off seeing something far more satisfying, like say "Rogue One," this weekend.

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