The last time that Will Smith tried to tackle a high-concept drama, we were served up Seven Pounds, which generously could be called meandering at best. Which is why when the trailer for his new film Collateral Beauty hit, my knee-jerk reaction was to tense up and resist the urge to press the “stop” button. Because, again, Seven Pounds. Yikes.
The trailer pulls a bait-and-switch on the audience. What you think you’re getting is a rote, Dad-mourning-son yarn we’ve seen in any number of Hollywood configurations. What we actually receive, however, is something that, while having the potential to devolve into a big ol’ mess, is kind of intriguing. Smith’s character, to cope with his loss, writes letters to concepts like Time and Death to suss out his emotions and make sense of the world. His correspondence into the infinite, though, has unintended consequences: living embodiments of those concepts pop up to try to pull Smith out of his funk, embrace life, all that jazz.
Look, despite the all-star cast joining Smith–including Kate Winslet, Michael Pena, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren–this film could nose-dive. Hard and spectacularly. But maybe I’m tenderhearted when it comes to this kind of tale. Maybe it’s the high concept coupled with the tale. Regardless, I’m willing to give it a go.
That said, it better not be another After Earth.
Collateral Beauty hits theaters on December 16th.