“Collateral Beauty” (Warner Bros.)

Will Smith and Keira Knightley star in a scene from the movie "Collateral Beauty." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. (CNS/Warner Bros.)

By Catholic News Service

Strange, pretentious drama about overcoming grief. Emotionally paralyzed by the death of his young daughter, a formerly successful advertising executive (Will Smith) endangers the future of his firm by his neglect of clients. In response, his three principal colleagues (Edward Norton, Kate Winslet and Michael Pena) hire a trio of actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jacob Latimore) to prove that their partner’s distress has rendered him incompetent by impersonating the three abstractions — death, love and time — to which, as it has been discovered by a private detective (Ann Dowd), he has written, and mailed, angry letters.

The occasional humor that leavens the dialogue in screenwriter Allan Loeb’s script fails to save director David Frankel’s film from its credibility-straining premise and the fortune-cookie sentiments that far outnumber the jokes — and that the audience is clearly meant to receive as nuggets of wisdom. The talented cast, which also includes Naomie Harris as a bereaved mother who leads a therapy group, is equally powerless to redeem this quirky mess. Those willing to endure the blizzard of cliches will, however, find a warm endorsement of marital fidelity waiting for them at the wrap.

An adultery theme, at least one use of profanity, several crude and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

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