Two years ago, Will Smith and Italian director Gabriele Muccino released The Pursuit of Happyness, which starred Smith as a single father navigating a hand-to-mouth existence on the streets of San Francisco. Watching Smith and Muccino's badly misguided reteaming, Seven Pounds, I marveled (to paraphrase the great Jermaine Jackson) that something so right could go so wrong. A morbid morality play that rivals The Reader for the bottom spot in this season's celluloid martyrdom derby, Seven Pounds casts Smith as Ben Thomas, an IRS tax collector whose once picture-perfect life came to an abrupt end in one of those tragic incidents that characters in Oscar-baiting, non-linear movies wear on their chests like scarlet letters. What exactly happened to Ben is less significant than what he plans to do about it. So we are subjected to one scene after another of Smith making house calls on delinquent taxpayers and other unfortunate souls—including a blind telemarketer (awkwardly played by Woody Harrelson) and an angelic young woman with a literally broken heart (Rosario Dawson, doing her best in a thankless role)—as he determines whether or not they're deserving of his charity. Just what Ben has to give is the "secret" upon which Seven Pounds pivots—a secret that, if we knew it from the start, would make the movie seem even more preposterous than it already does.
Smith turns sensitive for the holidays.
Opens at Metro and other theaters, Fri., Dec. 19. Rated PG-13. 118 minutes.