The title of this cloying, grown-up fairytale set in New York sounds like it's been taken from a random generator for naming perfumes. "'Collateral Beauty', you say? But I still have half a bottle left of 'Incidental Harmony'."
A whimsical contemporary drama with a streak of over-polite tragedy, the film has something of Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol' about it. Will Smith plays grieving businessman and once brilliant ad man Howard, who is visited by three spirit types: Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore playing smalltime theatre actors hired by his colleagues to pretend to be Death, Love and Time for Howard's benefit. Can they collectively nudge him to a new level of self-knowledge?
At the very least, these spirits might help Howard's business partners – played by Kate Winslet, Michael Peña and Edward Norton – to prove once and for all that their unhappy friend is unfit to run a company. They want to sell up, cash in and sort out their own personal issues (a desire for a child; illness; trying to be a good father). Understandably, Smith is more concerned with the young daughter he and his ex wife recently lost to illness than selling shares. Although, strangely, the movie seems to pitch both at the same level of importance. The only sign of life in Howard comes from a burgeoning friendship with a fellow bereaved parent played by the ever-reliable Naomie Harris.
Reaching out for heartwarming and teary alternative Christmas movie status, director David Frankel ('The Devil Wears Prada', 'Marley and Me') has assembled a game and sparky big-name cast, and he makes the most of a stream of attractive wintry Manhattan and Brooklyn locations. But it's just impossible to get past the core ridiculousness and arm-twisting manipulation of the story.