Writer: Allan Loeb (Wall Street 2, Rock of Ages, Here Comes the Boom)
Producers: Michael Sugar, Allan Loeb, Bard Dorros, Anthony Bregman
Starring: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslow, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 97 min.
Love, Time, Death. The new instant hate watch holiday classic Collateral Beauty begins by telling us that these three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for Love. We wish we had more Time. We fear Death. In a way, you can apply the same principle to the experience of watching Collateral Beauty. In watching it, you waste your Time (97 minutes to be exact, if you stay for the whole credits trying to decompress what you just witnessed and contemplate your own existence), you pray for Death to offer you a sweet release from this monstrosity, and yet you Love every second of it because for all of its deformed themes, insane plot developments and bizarre decisions from top-notch actors to get involved with such a project (Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and even more are somehow all present and actually delivering these lines with a straight face), Collateral Beauty is one of the most deliriously entertaining movies of 2016. It’s only fitting that it comes at the tail end of a year that would have been absolutely hysterical to witness from a distance, but instead was a genuine nightmare come to life to experience up close and personal.
To call a movie “stupid” feels like a childish way to criticize something, but I suppose that fits a movie as insulting to the viewer’s intelligence as this. It’s truly something that needs to be seen to be believed. I thought about simply explaining what happens in this film to allow people to understand how overwhelmingly ridiculous it all is, but the truth is that if I wrote down everything that happens in this movie scene for scene, you genuinely would not believe me. It goes beyond the fact that the trailers and logline for the film that we were all sold on totally misrepresent how the film actually plays out, essentially spoiling the movie in a bizarrely indirect way that almost feels like the studio hated it and was passive aggressively sabotaging it. It goes beyond the fact that the whole plot of the movie centers around an idea that makes the people we’re supposed to care and root for horrible human beings who have no concept of how to help a “friend” whose young child tragically died. It goes beyond the fact that the movie ends with not one, but two of the most INSANE twists I’ve ever seen in a movie, which on top of being wildly outrageous in their own right are made even more extreme by how wildly incompetent the handling of their big reveals are. Ultimately, every scene in Collateral Beauty is some kind of wonder to behold – just not in the sense of wonder that they wanted it to be.
It’s easy to see what the people responsible for Collateral Beauty (namely director David Frankel and writer Allan Loeb) were going for – if you couldn’t then just watch a single interview with any member of the cast currently on the talk show circuit and wait five seconds before they bring up It’s A Wonderful Life and Frank Capra. This was intended to be a throwback to those wholesome holiday films of old that made you smile and feel loved and warm inside. There’s a place for that kind of gooey confection, but the thing is that there’s a way to play that spirit in earnest to make it go down smooth and cheerful. On the other end there’s Collateral Beauty, which is so over the top in its corny tone and its bizarrely arrogant writing, so satisfied with what Loeb clearly seems to think are some revolutionary twists despite the fact that you can see one of them coming the entire film and the other is so ridiculous that no one would be insane enough to even consider it, that you practically feel insulted the entire time you’re watching it. Part of me wants to do whatever I can to make sure that no one in the world sees Collateral Beauty because I wouldn’t want to inflict this kind of debacle on anyone, even my worst enemy. The other part of me wants everyone possible to see it, as I don’t think I had a more enjoyable experience this year than absolutely tearing this movie to shreds in my head while watching it. No matter what, one thing is for certain: Collateral Beauty is exactly the movie that best represents what a truly insane mess the year 2016 was.