ReelBob: ‘Collateral Beauty’

By Bob Bloom

It is unimaginable to understand the pain and suffering a parent must go through after the loss of a child, which is what makes “Collateral Beauty” such an emotionally disgusting feature.

The cynical and insincere fashions in which the film deals with grief are unpardonable and outrageous.

So many aspects of the film are so phony that you can easily create a laundry list of shortcomings.

The movie also is simplistic and predictable: You know everything that is going to happen within the first 10 minutes.

Will Smith stars as Howard, the co-owner of a successful Madison Ave. advertising company, who, after the death of his 6-year-old daughter, basically retreats from life.

Three years after his daughter’s passing, he remains emotionally shut down. He and his wife have divorced, and his agency is collapsing.

His business partner, Whit (Edward Norton), and two other executive-friends, Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena), devise a plan to have Howard declared mentally incompetent, so they can salvage the agency by selling it.

If these are Howard’s friends, you wonder what his enemies would plot?

Howard has written letters to Death, Love and Time that he has mailed and which a private investigator, hired by his “friends,” has intercepted.

They concoct a plan to hire three actors — played by Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore — to portray Death, Love and Time — to confront Howard and make their case for his mental instability.

If you can’t guess what happens next, you may need a refresher course in Film Cliché 101.

The cast also features Naomie Harris as the leader of a grief-counseling group for parents who have lost children.

Howard eventually takes part, leading to another “big reveal” that you can see coming without the use of binoculars.

“Collateral Beauty” is such a coldly calculating and manipulative misfire that it’s incomprehensible how anyone who read Allan Loeb’s script thought it would make a decent movie.

It is formulaic and lazy. Each of Howard’s friends, for example, have one defining characteristic — despite being back-stabbing S.O.Bs., that is.

Whit, who is divorced, wants to reconnect with the young daughter who hates him; Claire is worried about her biological clock and is constantly seen looking at sperm-donor websites; and Simon is dying, but has not yet revealed that important fact to his family.

Pena’s performance seems the truest in this cinematic forest of artificiality.

Plus, these are all rich and successful people, so setting this banal melodrama in such a milieu makes it difficult for an audience to connect or even care about these characters.

“Collateral Beauty” is hackneyed and a waste of time. It’s the movie equivalent of finding coal in your Christmas stocking.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob ( and Rottentomatoes ( He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

1 star out of 4
(PG-13), mature themes, language