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Overall Rating

Awesome: 4.65%
Worth A Look: 18.6%
Just Average: 0%
Pretty Crappy46.51%
Sucks: 30.23%

4 reviews, 19 user ratings

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Seven Pounds
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Few Pounds You Can Easily Lose This Holiday Season"
1 stars

Every year at this time, the multiplexes are jam-packed with serious-minded films that are made by people who are trying to say profound and meaningful things about the meaning of life while trying to score an Oscar for their efforts. Although there is the occasional film that lives up to all of the advanced hype and hoopla, the results are usually the same--some of them turn out to be pretty good, some turn out to be bad, some are noble failures and there is usually one all-out disaster in the bunch that is such a failure on every artistic level that all you can do is sit there slack-jawed in wonder/horror as you contemplate the enormous gap between the overweening ambitions of the filmmakers and the utter failings of the final results. (Good examples of this type of film from the last couple of years include “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Breaking and Entering” and “The Bucket List.”) Although the competition has been fairly fierce, this year’s entry into those ignoble ranks has got to be “Seven Pounds,” a mawkish melodrama that plays like a year’s worth of “Oprah” episodes crammed into a duck press and garnished with equally indigestible portions of cloying sentimentality and incoherent mysticism and the result is a ludicrous testament to the human condition that never demonstrates a sense of an authentic human touch for a single second.

The film stars Will Smith and when we first see him (not counting a brief prologue that we shall not discuss here), he is busy on the home verbally harassing Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson), a phone operator for a direct-by-mail meat vendors, about the quality of the meats that he has supposedly ordered. Sure, we’ve all harassed phone operators for direct-by-mail meat vendors in the past, but what transpires here is way beyond the pale--our hero goes out of his way to insult Ezra personally for working for a substandard meat concern, for not actually eating the very product that he sells and, best of all, for being blind--Carrie White herself didn’t absorb the amount of abuse that our supposed hero lays on this poor blind guy for no particular reason. However, just at the point when even the most lenient Will Smith fan may find themselves wanting to reach into the movie screen to clock him for being such an ass, he hangs up the phone and looks all pained and despairing over what he has done. This, as you can probably figure out, is one of the film’s subtle clues that this guy is not all that he seems. It turns out that he is Ben Thomas and when he isn’t cruelly abusing blind bacon wholesalers, he is an IRS field agent who likes to show up unannounced at the homes, offices and hospital rooms of the people in his case work. In one case, he pops in at a nursing home run by one apparent client and smacks him around for not giving a patient a bath. In another, he shows up at the hospital where striking-but-sickly printer Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson) has gone for tests regarding her chronic heart problem in order to inform her that she is being audited. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

However, as indicated before, there is apparently more to Ben than meets the eye, even to a sightless veal jockey. Ben travels around and insinuates himself into the lives of a number of people--sometimes directly, as when he uses his IRS credentials as a conduit to help an abused housewife and her kids escape their hellish torment, and sometimes indirectly, as when he donates bone marrow to a sickly child that he has only seen from afar. Of course, most of his time is dedicated to getting involved in Emily’s life--partly because time is of the essence with her because of her precarious heart condition and partly because, quite frankly, she is better-looking than the schmuck from the nursing home. And yet, there are still some things about Ben that raise a few questions (and not just because his IRS ID appears to be the most powerful set of credentials seen since the M.D. card wielded by Tom Cruise in “Eyes Wide Shut”)--he won’t talk about his past to Emily at all, he never seems to do any authentic IRS work, he has a brother (Michael Eady) and a best pal (Barry Pepper) who occasionally talk to him in awkwardly-worded conversations that suggest that they know more about him than we do and he moves from his lavish beachside home into a shabby motel with virtually nothing but the clothes on his back and a giant poisonous jellyfish in a portable fish tank. Oh yeah, we also get a series of gradually unfolding flashbacks that seem to suggest that Ben was once a rich and happy-go-lucky aerospace engineer before something happened to make him the jellyfish-lugging oddball that he is now.

Obviously, the driving point of “Seven Pounds” is the mystery of who Ben is and what his ulterior motives are in regards to the people that he becomes involved with as the film proceeds. To their credit, Sony Pictures has actually gone to the effort to create a publicity campaign that for once doesn’t supply you with all of the answers before you even get around to purchasing a ticket. Unfortunately for me, Sony inexplicably decided to keep myself and a number of fellow critics out of the early press screenings for the film and by the time I was finally allowed to see it, I had already had those questions answered for me thanks to the comments of those that they deemed worthy of being able to see it earlier and as a result, a good portion of the dramatic impact of the various reveals was dramatically lessened for me as a result. Under normal circumstances, I might have been highly cheesed off by this development if it weren’t for the fact that screenwriter Grant Nieporte (the scribe behind a couple of episodes of “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter”) and director Gabriele Muccino (whose previous collaboration with Will Smith resulted in the unbearable “The Pursuit of Happyness”) seem hell-bent on spoiling those very same secrets for themselves. I would conservatively estimate that most audiences will be able to figure out exactly what is going on and what is about to go on by the 30-minute mark--alas, that leaves us with 90 minutes of sitting around and praying fervently that our predictions are wrong. Sadly, all of our worst fears are gruesomely realized as the story progresses into the kind of mawkish, soap-operatic goo that becomes so cloying after a while that concession stands may want to consider stocking up on insulin just to be on the safe side. I take it back--there is one moment that I admit that I didn’t anticipate and that is Smith’s grand finale, a moment that is so breathtakingly in its ludicrousness that I can’t understand how the filmmakers were able to put it up in front of the cameras with anything resembling a straight face in the first place.

The only explanation I can offer for the insistence of “Seven Pounds” in giving up its surprises so early in the game--even while it is still pretending to be all mysterious and elliptical--is that Muccino and Nieporte were gambling on the assumption that we would be so immediately fascinated with Ben and his interactions with the other characters that we wouldn’t notice that the film had already showed all of its cards. The problem is that our central character is nowhere near the kind of compelling personality required to distract us from the sub-“Pay It Forward” posings of the screenplay. Actually, to call Ben a “character” at all is giving the part far more weight than it deserves--he is basically a cipher whose behavior is inspired less by anything resembling real-life concerns than by the mechanics of a crudely written screenplay. As he goes about invading the lives of the people that he has mysteriously selected and begins hectoring them with demands that they make their lives more meaningful in exchange for a precious gift that will change their existences forever, he isn’t so much a benevolent savior as he is a slightly less deranged version of Jigsaw from the “Saw” movies minus the metal shop skills. (I take that back--there is a heartwarming sequence in which he repairs an ancient printing press in a few minutes flat.) The part is pretty much unplayable but Will Smith doesn’t do it any favors with another one of the one-note performances that he has been delivering in recent years with such depressing regularity that you’ll find yourself wondering whatever happened to the actor who so brilliantly inhabited the numerous sides of Muhammad Ali just a few years ago. He seems so concerned with making sure that he has enough allegedly powerful moments to use as clips for his Oscar campaign that he can never be bothered to form a plausible on-screen relationship with any of his fellow actors. Because of this, the love story between Ben and Emily that grows to dominate much of the second half never feels believable for a second--Smith seems too in love with himself to show any interest in anyone else. Then again, you can’t entirely blame him because of the blandness of Dawson’s character--normally one of the brighter and more vivacious actresses at work today (she even managed to breathe life into something as unendurable as “Rent” when she came onto the screen), she is fatally hampered by a role that is so thinly written that it actually gives her one of those horrible moments in which a woman who appears to be gorgeous by even the strictest standards makes a play for our sympathy by suggesting that she “used to be hot” before her disease took over.

The fact that this particular moment isn’t the low point of “Seven Pounds” should give some indication of just how dreadful it really is. Hey, I don’t mind a movie that is filled wall-to-wall with sentimental moments as long as the film earns those moments on its own merits without resorting to hollow manipulations in order to achieve them. Needless to say, “Seven Pounds” never earns any of its tear-jerking moments and the amount of manipulation that it uses to try to provoke us into some kind of emotional response is so brutal that you may find yourself staggering out of the theater afterwards as if you had just been mugged. This is a real bummer--a hollow and artificial bit of feel-good pap that never feels sincere for a second and which is as overblown in its own shameless way as the Michael Bay schlockbuster of your choice. Sadly, that may be enough for some moviegoers and I have a sad hunch that the same people who flocked to the equally insincere “The Pursuit of Happyness” are likely to swallow this nonsense as well. For everyone else, “Seven Pounds” is notable only because it manages to achieve one thing that most might have considered to be impossible--it inadvertently transforms “Hancock” from a smug and self-satisfied disaster into Will Smith’s artistic high-water mark for the year.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=17102&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/19/08 00:00:00
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User Comments

4/15/18 Joe Smaltz Gave up after an hr. Tired of waiting for a plot. 1 stars
7/28/11 Joel Fox Excellent fim. 5 stars
1/20/10 Stanley Thai A pretentious thriller where Will Smith plays an unsympathetic character. 2 stars
11/21/09 mr.mike Well worth seeeing - on cable. 4 stars
6/28/09 Joe Smaltz Good cinamatography, directing, acting, editing. Horseshit story, backasswards! 2 stars
4/27/09 Lana Good writing, very good photography, excellent acting; a good movie and worth seeing! 4 stars
1/29/09 Bert Kaplan a downright dud. 2 stars
1/28/09 Lucas Jack Somersby needs to watch this movie again since ihe did not understand most of themovie 5 stars
12/30/08 Luisa Great acting from Will Smith. Good story. 4 stars
12/30/08 sweetgrrl1972 One of the most tense and depressing movies of all time 2 stars
12/28/08 Samantha Pruitt why ids everyone hating on this movie? Smith and Dawson are great. 4 stars
12/26/08 Yolanda I liked the movie. Smith and Dawson were great! 4 stars
12/23/08 Eric I disagree - my two friends and I figured this movie out in first 15 mins. Made it more sad 4 stars
12/22/08 Kork Klogz Wow, what a stunning performance by Rosario Dawson. Luv'd her, hated the movie! 4 stars
12/21/08 jackson elles pretentious, confusing, and frustrating 2 stars
12/20/08 michele Rosario Dawson steals the show,worth watching just to see her on film,the carmera loves her 4 stars
12/19/08 Syl Mac The movie was an hour and 50 mins tooo long! It was very predictable and tooo slow. 2 stars
12/19/08 Gary It was very depressing 2 stars
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  19-Dec-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Mar-2009


  DVD: 31-Mar-2009

Directed by
  Gabriele Muccino

Written by
  Grant Nieporte

  Will Smith
  Rosario Dawson
  Woody Harrelson

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