Mike Fonseca: Today we are reviewing Collateral Beauty, the new holiday film starring will Smith and Helen Mirren. Mike what did you think?
Mike Ivey: It's hard to put my finger on exactly how I feel about it. On one side, it's a wonderfully made film about loss and living, on the other side it's a movie that has been done over and over ad nauseam. What about you?
Mike Fonseca: I am a sucker for movies like this. I get teary eyed at some Hallmark commercials. I get where people are coming from when they say its been done before, but I enjoyed the movie. I was predisposed to like it from the cast and the trailers. Even when I know that a movie is trying to manipulate its audience, I'm OK with that.
Mike Ivey: Sure, movie directors are there to manipulate, but I think they crossed the line into melodrama. Collateral Beauty is about ad exec Howard (Will Smith) retreating from life after a tragedy, by writing to Love, Time and Death. But he doesn't expect for them to actually respond to his letters.
Mike Fonseca: His business partners and friends are concerned about him as a person, but also with how his near catatonic state will affect them and their families.
Mike Ivey: The film also stars a bevy of heavyweights including Ed Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightly and Michael Pena.
Mike Fonseca: Don't forget Naomie Harris, recently the new Miss Moneypenny from the James Bond films.
Mike Ivey: Yes, and she's getting rave reviews for another awards-season movie, Moonlight.
Mike Fonseca: I think everyone is familiar with the others. Even if they are not sure who Michael Pena is, they are guaranteed to have seen in him in something.
Mike Ivey: I think Will Smith gave a fantastic performance. Granted, I haven't seen many of his movies the last few years, but it was a welcome change nonetheless.
Mike Fonseca: I don't think there is an issue with the acting. The cast is stellar. Probably not the directing either, since David Frankel is responsible for The Devil wears Prada among others.
Mike Ivey: Right, there was perhaps too many twists and turns, with the audience predicting every curve in the road.
Mike Fonseca: Will Smith has his share of haters, but I think he has proven several times that he is a serious actor. The Pursuit of Happyness, Concussion and Ali are good examples. A number of things were predictable, but there was at least one turn I didn't see coming.
Mike Ivey: -- don't say it!
Mike Fonseca: Don't worry, this is a spoiler free zone! I also have to say that the score of this movie was a big part of some of the emotion I felt. Kudos to Theodore Shapiro. So, final thoughts?
Mike Ivey: I'd say that if I had to put my finger on the one thing that bothered me the most about this movie was it was so contrived that it reduced its main characters to pawns in one grand scheme of making Howard happy again. Sure, that's essentially what the movie is about -- Howard reclaiming his life from depression -- but when you have Winslet and Norton — and they could've been swapped out by other, less talented actors — then you have a problem with their character arcs. So I suppose that's what I'm most disappointed in: the script. I would love to take this film and unofficially recut it. What are your final thoughts, Mike?
Mike Fonseca: It seems like the weak link is the script. The plot borrows heavily from A Christmas Carol and even Its a Wonderful Life. The thing is, even though many people give me a hard time about it, I Love It's a Wonderful Life.
Mike Ivey: So what rating would you give Collateral Beauty?
Mike Fonseca: This is not a deep, life-changing movie, but it serves as a proper holiday movie. I give this a 3.5 out of 5. This rating is for what the movie we got. This could have been a 4 or 5 star movie, but I suspect a few too many producers got their hands on it. How about you Mike?
Mike Ivey: I'm giving it a 3 out of 5. It's the sappy (maybe feel good) movie of this holiday season, but I think a change of tone or genre could've helped the story along. I think there was a really seedy corporate angle could've exploited but didn't. Collateral Beauty has edge, but it's surrounded by an inch-thick plastic protector. Honestly, I wish the script would’ve been developed as an indy film instead of a big studio flick.