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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Collateral Beauty is an emotional drama about an advertising genius (Will Smith) who's lost the will to work in the three years since his young daughter's death. The movie tackles mature themes related to grief (grieving parents tell stories about their dead children), loss, divorce, work-life balance, and death, so although the content isn't all that edgy, it's likely too heavy for younger viewers. Occasional strong language includes "bulls--t," "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and one "f--king." A man nearly gets in accidents on his bike, and there's some mild flirting, references to adultery, and a few couples who embrace. The movie promotes compassion and empathy, and viewers will get plenty of lessons about the importance of family and how life has three ultimate motivators -- time, love, and death.
What's the story?
COLLATERAL BEAUTY opens with advertising firm partners Howard (Will Smith) and Whit (Edward Norton) celebrating a successful year. Howard gives an inspirational speech saying that everything people do in life is because of three concepts -- time, love, and death. Then, in the next scene, it's three years later, and Howard is busy building an elaborate domino maze, only to flatten it. Whit and two other business partners, Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena), discuss the fact that Howard lost his 6-year-old daughter and hasn't worked since. They want to sell their now-floundering business, so they hire a private investigator to have Howard, who owns 60 percent of the company, declared mentally incompetent. They end up hiring three actors -- Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, and Jacob Latimore -- to play the concepts of Death, Love, and Time with Howard. Meanwhile, each actor's assigned concept speaks directly to issues dealt with by Whit, Claire, and Simon.
Is it any good?
The fabulous cast saves this sentimental holiday drama, but it still ultimately feels more like a big-budget Hallmark Christmas movie than an awards-caliber film. Collateral Beauty isn't bad, but it's also not as memorable as would be fitting for the acclaimed ensemble. There are occasional moments of humor, thanks to the gifted actors, but there's no getting around the fact that the story is treacly sweet. Life lessons are served over and over again for all of the characters (and the audience), not just Howard.
In addition to Howard's three friends and the trio of Love, Death, and Time, there's another character worth mentioning -- Madeleine (Naomie Harris), who runs a bereavement group that Howard attends for parents who've lost their children. Their instant chemistry makes sense, since they have a tragic loss in common. But in the end, all the fine acting (and with Smith, there's a bit of overacting, too, in a couple of climactic scenes...) doesn't rise above the movie's tender but cheesy twists.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages in Collateral Beauty. What does the story have to say about the concepts of love, time, and death?
Who do you consider a role model in the movie? Why? What characteristics do they display?
What do you think about the movie's ending? What do you think it means?
- In theaters: December 16, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 14, 2017
- Cast: Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton
- Director: David Frankel
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements and brief strong language
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