“Passengers”: It might have seemed like a clever idea at one point to have two of the hottest young stars in movies today, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, team up for what amounts to a combination of a space-age Adam and Eve story done up as a bad ripoff of the Sandra Bullock-George Clooney masterpiece “Gravity.” But this film - about a man who accidentally breaks free of his hibernation pod 90 years ahead of schedule while traveling through space among 5000 other hibernating humans, and then opts to release a woman so he can have a companion – does nearly everything wrong.
The first 40 minutes don’t even feature Lawrence at all, as Pratt comes to reckon with his situation, and then when she is brought to life, the audience is subjected to her learning how to cope with the loneliness of her situation as well. The audience is also subjected to a lot of boring “getting to know you” moments leading up to the world’s most obvious romance. Let’s face it, if the last person you’ll ever see is one of these two gorgeous people, would you resist making a connection with them?
Lawrence discovers that Pratt forced her out of her pod, and winds up freaking out in the first annoying performance of her career. Then, the space station they’re on suddenly goes haywire, apparently for the sole purpose of tricking audiences into thinking they got something for their money other than watching these two actors make googly eyes at each other for two hours.
The way that they resolve the crisis defies all logic, and the scenario is nowhere near as complex as it should be. It also leads to an ending that feels completely rushed, poorly thought out and unearned.
The movie only has one S word for foul language, but audiences will see Pratt’s bare derriere a couple times as he’s in a shower or roaming the hallways, and there are two brief shadowy sex scenes and a third moment where the camera turns away as the pair are about to have sex in an empty cafeteria. On the plus side, Pratt offers her a wedding ring even though there’s no way in the universe they can get married by another person.
“Collateral Beauty”: Will Smith plays a successful ad exec named Howard who is traumatized by the death of his young daughter and has spent the past two years sleepwalking through life. But when a huge offer comes to -buy out his agency and his closest friends and co-workers (played by Michael Pena, Edward Norton and Kate Winslet) believe the sale is at risk due to his lack of interest, they step in for an unusual intervention.
The friends hire actors to play human manifestations of Time, Love and Death, because Howard writes letters to those concepts as his way of processing his grief. When Death (Helen Mirren), Love (Keira Knightley) and Time (Jacob Latimore) arrive in real-world settings and make Howard believe that only he sees them, he goes for help to a grief-support group that helps him begin real healing, by making him appreciate the good that still remains in his life – aka the “collateral beauty.”
This may all sound like a great and moving concept for a movie, but the script by Allen Loeb is almost stupendously awful. Characters explain things, in-depth and all the time, while the actors look bored. It’s a shame that there is such an amazing cast (Smith, Mirren, Norton, Winslet, and Knightley) who apparently didn’t bother to read the script thoroughly before cashing their paychecks.
To see another movie that handles issues of grief and death in a much more powerful, profound and moving way, check out “A Monster Calls.” “Monster” opens in ten major cities this weekend, but I’ll review it when it goes nationwide on Jan. 6.