Seven Pounds Movie Review (1 1/2 Stars)
Movie Review by Michael Phillips
Will Smith & Rosario Dawson
"Seven Pounds" has a heart as big as all outdoors. Unfortunately, it's made out of high-fructose bull.
Will Smith is a first-rate actor and a first-rate movie star. He's not the problem, although if a major player green-lights a more grandiose and specious screenplay about redemption any time this century, it'll be a miracle.
Two years ago, Smith and director Gabriele Muccino fashioned an improbable global success out of "The Pursuit of Happyness," thanks also to screenwriter Steve Conrad.
While that fact-based film had its share of dubious romanticism, you bought it; the emotional payoffs worked; Smith's performance kept the whole thing honest.
This time Smith and Muccino are dealing with an elaborate scenario straight out of Cloud Cuckoo-land.
Smith's character, an Internal Revenue Service agent named Ben, has committed a terrible deed. We are not shown the particulars until the end. At the outset we see a man whose soul is clearly in torment -- cruel, bullying, anguished.
He appears to be investigating a carefully selected group of people's cases. Woody Harrelson plays a blind pianist. Barry Pepper plays Ben's estranged friend. Elpidia Carrillo's Connie is trapped in an abusive relationship. Michael Ealy portrays Ben's brother, who early on mentions that reclusive Ben, living out at the fabulous family beach house, has borrowed something from him that he needs back.
The key supporting role is that of a seriously ill heart patient played by Rosario Dawson, whom the camera hearts very much.
Without blowing the secrets of "Seven Pounds," it soon becomes clear Ben is out to redeem himself and help this collection of strangers, Dawson's character among them. Then Ben realizes he too hearts this woman. And so they must have discreet golden-hued love.
Even with Smith in there, slugging, every scene, Ben remains a device of superhuman (or superstar) empathy.
"Seven Pounds" is all about extending a hand and breaking out of your shell, as is "Yes Man".
But in practical terms it boils down to Smith and Dawson having picnics in impossibly pretty fields of flowers while cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd and composer Angelo Milli pour it on. This redemption racket looks mighty appealing!
And yet it isn't. Will "Seven Pounds" affect some people? I'm sure it will.
For others, watching this all-too-literal heart-tugger will make them long for a simpler, truer story about second chances and making amends. The film is likely to be the sternest test to date of Smith's box-office prowess. If he puts this one over, he can do anything.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality).
Running time: 2:04.
Starring: Will Smith (Ben); Rosario Dawson (Emily); Michael Ealy (Ben's bother); Barry Pepper (Dan); Woody Harrelson (Ezra); Elpidia Carrillo (Connie).
Directed by Gabriele Muccino; written by Grant Nieporte; photographed by Philippe Le Sourd; edited by Hughes Winborne; music by Angelo Milli; production designed by J. Michael Riva; produced by Todd Black, James Lassiter, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch and Will Smith. A Columbia Pictures release.
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