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Collateral Beauty Blu-ray Review

Collateral Beauty (2016) movie poster Collateral Beauty

Theatrical Release: December 16, 2016 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: David Frankel / Writer: Allan Loeb

Cast: Will Smith (Howard Inlet), Edward Norton (Whit Yardsham), Keira Knightley (Amy/Love), Michael Peña (Simon Scott), Naomie Harris (Madeline), Jacob Latimore (Raffi/Time), Kate Winslet (Claire Wilson), Helen Mirren (Brigitte/Death), Ann Dowd (Sally Price), Mary Beth Peil (Whit's Mother)

Buy Collateral Beauty from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Instant Video

Will Smith's reign as king of the box office clearly ended a few years ago. That probably means smaller paydays and somewhat fewer offers for him, but it also frees the longtime movie star and hyphenate
from having to make movies that are expected to be blockbusters. Twenty-five years of popularity ensures Smith is still a draw for many, a fact confirmed by the strong numbers put up by Suicide Squad last summer despite tepid reviews. But instead of saving the world from aliens and mutants, Smith can now shine a light on sports-related traumas in Concussion or play a con man in Focus.

Collateral Beauty gives Smith another medium-sized movie in which to stretch his creative muscles. Though opening in theaters near Christmas, this human drama is practically devoid of visual effects and not intended to be an I Am Legend-level attraction. Collateral, unlike Suicide Squad, is decidedly a Will Smith vehicle (even if he replaced Hugh Jackman), but this one surrounds him with some uncharacteristically esteemed and decorated supporting actors including Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Helen Mirren, and Keira Knightley.

In "Collateral Beauty", advertising executive Howard Inlet (Will Smith) confronts grief.

Smith plays Howard Inlet, a New York advertising executive who at the film's opening holds his office captive with a passionate speech putting their work into perspective. We then jump ahead three years to find Howard a shell of himself. His hair and beard have gone salt and pepper and he hardly talks to anyone now, retreating to his office to spend days constructing elaborate domino shows. How did Howard get this way? Well, he lost his 6-year-old daughter and no amount of therapy can set him straight. His sad life consists of solemn bicycle rides, sometimes into traffic, inexplicable visits to a dog park, therapeutic letter writing, and retreats to his apartment, where he has no phone or Internet or way of taking his mind off the pain.

Howard's fellow executives Whit (Norton), Claire (Winslet), and Simon (Michael Peña) are aware that their company is in danger with him in this state. But since Howard owns a majority share, their hands are tied to performing a sale that might steer the sinking ship to safety. They decide to pursue options to challenge their grieving friend's competency, ultimately taking the extreme step of hiring three serious stage actors: Brigitte (Mirren), Aimee (Knightley), and Raffi (Jacob Latimore) to respectively portray Death, Love, and Time, three abstracts to whom Howard has recently written and mailed letters (a discovery made by an unassuming private eye played by Ann Dowd).

Approaching him with his letters in hand, the actors take Howard off-guard and have him questioning reality and his sanity. Their interactions also drive him to confront the demons he is facing, prompting him to attend a support group (run by Naomie Harris) for parents of dead children that he has been avoiding.

Bearing the letter he wrote, classical actress Brigitte (Helen Mirren) poses as Death for Howard.

Written by Allan Loeb (21, The Switch, Just Go With It, Here Comes the Boom), Collateral Beauty feels very much like a modern-day Frank Capra movie. That may sound like extreme praise, given how highly many, myself included, regard Capra today for enduring works like It Happened One Night, It's a Wonderful Life,
and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But keep in mind, those films had some vocal detractors in their day and, as I predicted, Collateral was decimated by many of my fellow critics.

This is a film relying on a slick high concept to tackle grief, something experienced by virtually everyone in their lives. Serious emotion is not something that is easy to present in film, especially PG-13 movies designed to draw crowds in over 3,000 theaters. Critics appreciate cinema that opts for rawness and sincerity, things you'll find in the likes of Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight, two of 2016's most acclaimed and decorated films. Collateral is not raw but calculated and its sincerity seems undercut by a reliance on some twists (which are explicitly designed as "aha" moments). All the characters are given their own arcs to function as subplots, from divorced Whit's estrangement from his young daughter to Simon's secret terminally ill status. They complement Howard's journey and add layers to the ways in which those three abstracts function in life. But they don't make for the most graceful of dramas.

With unknown actors and makers less experienced than Loeb and director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me), this film might well win over some critics with its heart. But as presented with movie stars and a wide launch across from awards-tailored fare, this was destined to be panned. Nonetheless, I found its earnestness admirable. I also appreciated its willingness to offer a slightly fantastical world view resembling Capra's some seventy to eighty years after his heyday. That may or may not register with general moviegoers, who undoubtedly represent the film's primary audience and the one that needs to be won over. Such moviegoers aren't as picky about manipulation and convention should enjoy the film as a more mature and emotionally resonant variation on Smith's apparently esteemed Seven Pounds.

Expertly photographed to tastefully show off the New York we know from other big high-concept movies, Collateral Beauty exemplifies the high technical standards you expect of a big studio picture, which this qualifies despite a presumably modest budget and multiple changes of personnel in development (Alfonso Gomez-Rejon of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was originally attached to direct even after Jackman and Rooney Mara departed). The acting is pretty terrific all around. Long an effortlessly charismatic comic hero, Smith has somehow come to be underrated dramatically, but he reminds us of his knack for drawing sympathy. Those around him elevate the material instead of playing down to it, with Mirren and Norton giving thoughtful yet funny performances you don't often find in Smith's movies.

While it played in theaters across from more thrilling and more skillful movies, Collateral Beauty has the potential to hit you on a greater emotional level than the others if you are able to accept all it asks of you.

Few took it up on that offer. Grossing just $31 million domestically on a $36 M budget, Collateral represents the lowest-grossing Smith vehicle since 2000's The Legend of Bagger Vance and quickly undoes any good that Suicide Squad might have done for his lofty going rate. Three months after its underwhelming fourth place opening, Collateral hit stores this week not in one of Warner's standard combo packs, but a Blu-ray edition with Digital HD.

Collateral Beauty Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Suggested Retail Price: $28.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

It's no surprise that this mid-budgeted studio film boasts strong picture and sound on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 visuals leave nothing to be desired and the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack does a good job of immersing you in the film's fantastical reality.

Edward Norton discusses the movie in "A Modern Fable." Be sure to notice the Collateral Beauty on the Blu-ray's menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The menu honestly uses the singular case because
one lone special feature is found here. "A Modern Fable: Discovering Collateral Beauty" (15:03) is a making-of featurette. It relies most on cast and crew talking heads, but also features the film clips and behind-the-scenes footage that are standard components for this kind of thing.

The disc opens with a Wonder Woman trailer and a promo for 4K Ultra HD (a format Collateral Beauty is not released on). Neither is menu-accessible and Collateral Beauty's own slightly misleading trailer isn't included at all.

The scored but static menu rearranges the cover design to better fit the 16:9 ratio.

A Digital HD insert (doubling as 4K print ad) accompanies the plain silver disc inside the unslipcovered, eco-friendly keepcase.

While on a walk through Central Park with grief therapist Madeline (Naomie Harris), Howard Inlet (Will Smith) looks off into the distance to see his three friends.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Trashed by critics and avoided by moviegoers, Collateral Beauty got an awful wrap in theaters, but I was able to appreciate its emotional storytelling as a modern-day successor to Frank Capra's esteemed classics. Knowing the divisive reception, I would recommend a rental, but Warner's Blu-ray is a satisfactory release of the film.

Buy Collateral Beauty from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Manchester by the Sea • Moonlight • Jackie • Doctor Strange • Allied • Tanna
Will Smith: Concussion • Focus • After Earth • Suicide Squad • Hancock • Men in Black 3
Edward Norton: Primal Fear • Stone • 25th Hour | Kate Winslet: Labor Day • Steve Jobs • Contagion
Helen Mirren: Eye in the Sky • Woman in Gold • Teaching Mrs. Tingle | Keira Knightley: Begin Again • The Imitation Game
Written by Allan Loeb: 21 • The Switch • Just Go With It • Rock of Ages • Here Comes the Boom
Directed by David Frankel: The Big Year • Marley & Me
It's a Wonderful Life • Winter's Tale • The Sea of Trees • Demolition

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Reviewed March 17, 2017.



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