Collateral Beauty, the movie with a terrible title where Will Smith talks to angels, not surprisingly did poorly at the box office this past weekend.
The movie’s estimated $7 million gross is officially “the worst wide opening for a Will Smith-led feature ever,” according to Box Office Mojo, following up Smith’s previous worst-ever opening, Concussion. There are many theories as to why Collateral Beauty failed, but I predict it’s largely because people saw the trailer and were like, “What is this?”
Critics responded accordingly. A few headlines: “Collateral Beauty Is a Cold and Crass Christmas Carol Remake That’s Exactly As Bad As You’ve Heard” (from Vulture), “‘Collateral Beauty’ Review: A Tragic Tale That’s Overly Manipulative” (ABC), and “Review: Nakedly Pandering Collateral Beauty Deserves a Lump of Coal” (Time). Deadline suggests that reviews such as these (and Rotten Tomatoes roundups in particular) have a higher impact on moviegoers today:
In the current Rotten Tomatoes pack-rat reviewer era, would 1990’s schmultzy Oscar best picture nominee Ghost even have a shot at becoming a B.O. hit? Even with a poor review from the New York Times that movie became the second-highest grossing title of its year with $217.6M domestic. Back in those days, the studios didn’t have Rotten Tomatoes to worry about, rather two guys dictating mainstream moviegoing: Siskel and Ebert (they both gave it a thumbs up). “Still, even if they thumbed down a film, you could survive at the box office,” says one distribution executive this morning.
A Collateral Beauty production source described the mass panning from critics as a “schoolyard assault.” But it didn’t help that the its trailer—which positions the movie as a cheesy holiday ensemble flick about love, faith and Will Smith tears—happens to be one of the worst in history. The plot is a touch more cynical than what’s posited, as I learned reading a review by Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson, who says it’s “not that bad.” **STOP IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS** After Smith’s character loses his daughter to cancer, the Grinchian partners at his ad firm hatch a plan to prove he’s unfit to run the company by hiring actors to play angels of Love (Keira Knightley), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Death (Helen Mirren) and mess with his head.
My guess is that the “angels” manage to work their charm on both Smith and the partners and, theoretically, the audience. Since I personally love a good bad rom-com or maudlin holiday movie, it’s possible this might appeal to me. That the trailer went for treacly (perhaps playing to This Is Us viewers) instead of feel-good realism may have contributed to low audience turnout, but even a better trailer wouldn’t have made the material better, to critics at least.
One anonymous studio exec gave an awesome assessment, stating: “Film critics are narrow-minded and have dark hearts. They prefer something like Manchester by the Sea which is significantly much darker than this film and deals with a similar set-up: the death of children.” Merry Christmas.