Seven Pounds

Movie Information

The Story: A guilt-ridden IRS agent tries to find salvation for his past by helping others. The Lowdown: A patently ridiculous weepie that constantly mistakes contrivance for profundity and has little connection to even marginal reality.
Score:

Genre: Preposterous Sudser With Messiah Complex
Director: Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness)
Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Michael Ealy, Barry Pepper, Elpidia Carrillo
Rated: PG-13

Columbia Pictures has asked critics not to offer up anything in their reviews that could be construed as a spoiler. I can understand this. If I told the film’s secrets—by which I mean those not telegraphed by the trailer—and you believed me (a prospect I find unlikely), you’d probably burst out laughing. What could the studio do to me if I did spill the beans? Make me sit through the damned thing again? Well, I’m not risking that, so all I’m saying here is that Seven Pounds manages the not inconsiderable feat of being both painfully predictable and preposterous to the point of being demented. Put it this way: When you see how things have to go and you start to slip into “Oh, no, they couldn’t possibly” mode, disabuse yourself of that disbelief. They not only can, but they will.

I honestly think that those responsible for Seven Pounds believe the movie is a lot more mysterious than it is. I knew from the trailer that Will Smith was playing a tormented man who has the ability to help out other people, which he seems to be doing to expiate his guilt over something bad he did. The trailer also made it pretty clear that he’s rather choosy about whom he helps. And while he doesn’t want to become emotionally involved with them, he will do just that with at least one, and that’s all planned to be capped off by Smith shuffling off his mortal coil. If the idea was to surprise or shock via those elements, it didn’t work. OK, I knew nothing of the bad thing Smith had done, though I had it pegged by the 20-minute mark. There’s also an aspect of what he’s up to that is partly surprising, a couple of minor details that aren’t immediately obvious—and then there’s the jellyfish. Yes, I said jellyfish.

Smith plays an IRS agent named Ben Thomas. We first meet him in a sleazy motel room where he’s calling 911 to report a suicide—his own. At this point the film flashes back to the events that brought him to this moment. The film then—because this is like art, you know—jumps around in a willy-nilly fashion showing Ben engaging in various mysterious activities and behaving in what former sitcom writer Grant Nieporte thinks is irrational behavior, which it might be if we couldn’t clearly see where this is going. Why does he abuse blind, vegan meat telemarketer Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson) over the phone? Why does he hang around a hospital scoping out (it’d be called stalking if he weren’t Will Smith) Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), the hapless girl with the rare blood type who owes $56,000 in back taxes and needs a heart transplant? Is this standard IRS agent protocol? If you can’t figure this out, you need to see more contrived movies.

When Ben isn’t involved in odd activities, he spends a lot of time sulking in his palatial beach house with his pet CGI box jellyfish (“the deadliest creature in the world,” Ben tells us in a childhood-memory flashback). At least that’s what he does until he starts putting his plan into action, whereupon he packs up his jellyfish and moves to the sleazy motel. The jellyfish, by the way, has no name, but then neither does fourth-billed Michael Ealy as “Ben’s Brother,” so I guess that’s fair. In any case, rampant melodrama of the most manipulative kind finally leads us back to that 911 call.

The aim is multiple-handkerchief weeping. The hope is that viewers won’t examine the amassed illogical plot points too closely. Those who shed copious tears will accuse those of us who find it all tedious and phony of “thinking too much.” It will be last year’s The Bucket List all over again. The public’s love affair with Will Smith will probably carry the day at the box office, even if this isn’t one of his better performances (looking like you’re suffering from intestinal cramping isn’t a good substitute for angst). Some of us will spend years trying to get the sound of an elementary-school chorus singing Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Into Something Good” out of our heads, while wondering if we can ever look a jellyfish in the tentacle again. The world will go on. Rated PG-13 for thematic material, some disturbing content and a scene of sensuality.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

20 thoughts on “Seven Pounds

  1. TimThomas

    You really “got” the movie, before it even started didn’t you? If the whole thing was so transparent, how come you didn’t see that Ben is really the brother’s name, who is the IRS agent, and TIM (played by W. Smith) was actually impersonating him…
    Maybe you could try to watch a movie without first looking at the trailer, and waiting for those moments, and analyzing them… Just try to discover the movie from the beginning to the end.
    Yes it is obvious what’s gong to happen, but this movie isn’t like The Game, where the point of watching is to figure it out.
    This movie is meant to make you feel something, obviously you aren’t the target audience, something is missing inside you. Stick to the cartoons, or sherlock movies, where your brilliant intellect could shine.

    p.s. Sorry to break this to you, one more time, (i don’t think you “got it” the first time)… The brother’s name is BEN.

  2. As far as getting things, note the line at the start of the review: “Columbia Pictures has asked critics not to offer up anything in their reviews that could be construed as a spoiler.” Thus why the review leaves out certain things, especially concerning any intended twists.

  3. Sean Williams

    If the whole thing was so transparent, how come you didn’t see that Ben is really the brother’s name, who is the IRS agent, and TIM (played by W. Smith) was actually impersonating him…

    Gee, son, did you miss the first sentence of this review…in which Mr. Hanke states that Colombia Pictures has demanded that critics avoid spoilers in their reviews?

    This movie is meant to make you feel something, obviously you aren’t the target audience, something is missing inside you.

    I don’t follow your logic: Mr. Hanke doesn’t like the film; ergo, he lacks humanity? If Rotten Tomatoes is any judge, 72 percent of critics are “missing something inside”.

    Stick to the cartoons, or sherlock movies, where your brilliant intellect could shine.

    Perhaps you, in turn, should stick to elementary-school playgrounds, where your insults might be considered witty.

  4. Ken Hanke

    You really “got” the movie, before it even started didn’t you? If the whole thing was so transparent, how come you didn’t see that Ben is really the brother’s name, who is the IRS agent, and TIM (played by W. Smith) was actually impersonating him

    But I did. The film makes this point very clear. However, unlike you, I opted to stick with the studio’s request of not giving away any of the movie’s revelations. You really can’t start unravelling the whole identity business without violating that request.

    Maybe you could try to watch a movie without first looking at the trailer

    That’s a patently absurd suggestion. The studios go out of their way to get you to see these things. They even cut deals to be sure their trailer gets on certain movies.

    Just try to discover the movie from the beginning to the end.

    So I should never see trailers, ignore the studio’s publicity altogether? Tell me, do you just walk into a theater with no idea what you’re seeing or what it’s about?

    Yes it is obvious what’s gong to happen, but this movie isn’t like The Game, where the point of watching is to figure it out.

    Well, that’s obviously not 100% true or the studio wouldn’t be asking reviewers not to give anything away. Moreover, this is a movie built around a mystery style plot (Why is he doing this? Why is he behaving in this manner? What is the horrible thing he did in the past?) and put together in a jigsaw puzzle fashion. It very much is designed for the viewer to try to figure out what’s going on. Are you suggesting that you’re supposed to be an utterly passive viewer who doesn’t think about what’s going on on the screen? Were you completely incurious on these points?

    This movie is meant to make you feel something, obviously you aren’t the target audience, something is missing inside you

    Oh, yes, it’s always the fault of the reviewer. It’s never the fault of the movie, nor is it simply a difference of opinion. In the case of Seven Pounds there must be something missing inside an awful lot of critics, since out of 129 reviews catalogued on Rotten Tomatoes, 92 of the reviews are bad ones.

  5. Piffy!

    I hate Will Smith and anything he has ever done. He has not talent, and is merely a marketing scheme of White-friendly Bill cosby-ism.

  6. jenna

    look, all the people who dont resect a good film when they see when are obviously the people bashing the film. this movie was not as predictable as ALL these “professional critics” seem to be saying..(haha professionals..yea right) it was very deep, and emotianal. will smith is going to go down as a legend after ..he already is ;] and will go down as greatness. i loved the movie, and i wish more films were as deep, powerful, and yes suprising!

  7. Ken Hanke

    look, all the people who dont resect a good film when they see when are obviously the people bashing the film.

    Is that in English?

  8. stacey

    Oh my gosh, Hanke’s reviews and the comments that follow just make my day! I laughed out loud when I read, “Is that English?” because I had just finished scratching my head over jenna’s comment.

    My mom just called and said I had to see this film. I love her, but I’ll follow Hanke’s lead when it comes to films. I LOVED Slumdog Millionaire and now know that I would go see that movie again over this latest Will Smith offering. (And I like him! I really do! I keep meaning to see Six Degrees of Separation again – because that’s the first film I ever saw him in and thought, “That’s the Fresh Prince? I can’t wait to see more from him!” Unfortunately I haven’t seen him in anything like that since.) Keep up the good work, Mr. Hanke. You so often make my day with your reviews!

  9. Ken Hanke

    Thank you.

    Thing is I don’t dislike Will Smith, but I don’t tend to much care for the movies he’s in. The major exception is Six Degrees, but in that I haven’t seen it since the ’90s, don’t hold me to that. I did find Hitch a pleasant diversion.

  10. Billy

    This movie is giving many clues in the whole process, instead of covering it up so tight till the ending moment. Shattered scenes and dialogues and leading you to solve the mystery. So mystery is a part of the movie, uncovering it is another, the romance and help and touching part is the gist. If you solve the mystery throughout the movie, congrats, you’re a normal person. If you don’t like knowing what happens in a mystery until the end, go watch Detective Konan(Case Closed), that suits you.
    You took out all the good things I see in the movie, the message it’s trying to deliver, the acting of Will Smith, the creative plot(something you might disagree, but honestly I’m tired of 007 and batman).
    And basically the stuff you’re complaining about, is not a big deal anyway.
    Highly illogical plot. Man Will Smith is a stalker, how did he get into that hospital? He must be caught or something!
    Care less about these minor stuff man. Not much stories are without these.

  11. Ken Hanke

    honestly I’m tired of 007 and batman

    You’re no more tired of them than I am — possibly less so — but Seven Pounds and its incredibly silly plotting is hardly much of a substitute, nor is it the only alternative to Batman and James Bond. There’s a wide world of actual good movies out there. What may not be a “big deal” to you — a jellyfish? — may strike someone else as a stumbling block of such Everest-like proportions that whatever thematic merit was in the film gets lost.

  12. ndal

    —————
    You really “got” the movie, before it even started didn’t you? If the whole thing was so transparent, how come you didn’t see that Ben is really the brother’s name, who is the IRS agent, and TIM (played by W. Smith) was actually impersonating him

    But I did. The film makes this point very clear. However, unlike you, I opted to stick with the studio’s request of not giving away any of the movie’s revelations. You really can’t start unravelling the whole identity business without violating that request.
    ———-

    Hanke, I’d not understand how you could claim to not giving away any movie’s revelations while criticising details like the nameless jellyfish and tim’s brother. Details like these were supposed to be told on a trailer? It makes no sense.

    About your critic, I agree some of the whole story can be predicted early, but it doesn’t strike out the movie, since from that on suspense turns well into drama. It’s a movie made to be at most enjoyed, not decyphrated.

    Sorry about eventually write mistakes, english isn’t my primary language. I hope it’s readable to US public to contribute with the discussion.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Hanke, I’d not understand how you could claim to not giving away any movie’s revelations while criticising details like the nameless jellyfish and tim’s brother. Details like these were supposed to be told on a trailer? It makes no sense.

    Well, yes it does make sense in that I do not tell you how these things come into play.

    About your critic, I agree some of the whole story can be predicted early, but it doesn’t strike out the movie, since from that on suspense turns well into drama.

    It may for you. It turns into ever-increasing preposterous silliness for me.

    It’s a movie made to be at most enjoyed, not decyphrated.

    Assuming that “decyphrated” is meant to mean deciphered, I don’t get your point — unless this is a variant on the tired accusation that the critic is “thinking too much,” which always strikes me as a lazy accusation that insists you need to become as stupid as the movie you’re watching. I might see the point to the idea if we were talking about a dumb teen sex comedy, but we’re not. We’re talking about a movie that paints itself as some kind of serious and meaningful drama complete with life lessons, but ends up with a jellyfish wrapped in a sub-Tarantino jigsaw structure.

  14. D. Alyse

    Look people, there’s one thing to love Will Smith (I kinda like the guy) and another thing to think this is a good movie. This is an overall horrible movie. Look past the tear jerker- I think I shed one- and look into the story or lack thereof. This movie can be seen as unpredictable, but like the critic said by that time why do you care? Why is all this time spent on a supposedly intense relationship between Ben/Tim and Emily, but it doesn’t even seem like they know anything about each other? They rarely talk or at least it’s not shown on screen. Then you have these 7 people who we’re told he helped, but you leave the theatre not even remembering all of them. So why were the 7 even important? They could have had 1 (cause it seems like they did) and had a story. Well maybe the blind guy could have made a cameo. The problem with this movie is it doesn’t make you understand the 7 situations and why they are important. Instead it barely goes into detail about 1 and spends half the movie on it. There’s a difference in being a suspense movie and just plain leaving things out. See the difference people! Oh and good acting or not a movie should be able to understand. Will Smith’s acting can’t make the movie…

  15. Ken Hanke

    Look past the tear jerker- I think I shed one

    I did, too, come to that (which puts it one tear up on Benjamin Button for me) — the moment where Rosario Dawson is overcome by him having fixed her printing press. I put this down entirely to Dawson’s performance, by the way.

    Then you have these 7 people who we’re told he helped, but you leave the theatre not even remembering all of them

    I can come up with six if I work at it, but I had to work at it. I’m still not clear how giving someone a house that couldn’t even begin to pay the property taxes on is quite the act of largesse it’s portrayed as.

  16. Aaron

    Saw this movie about a week ago. This review seems to be essentially spot on in most ways to me. The big problem for me was that it started in such a disjointed and difficult to follow fashion that it essentially forced me to start thinking analytically to simply figure out what was going on. Unfortunately, the movie just falls apart once the pieces begin to fit together. The movie just isn’t clever enough to avoid telegraphing its intentions which ultimately ruins any impact an event would have. By the time we actually get to the “tear jerking conclusion” it’s emotionless as we’ve been reacting to it for atleast the past 30 minutes.

  17. BEN

    I’m going to have to side with TimThomas on this one. Giving away the brother’s name would be a plot spoiler, but you explicitly stated that he had no name. The spoiler excuse was a good attempt though.
    And using a RottenTomatoes rating as some sort of authority on what is and isn’t a good movie? Movies aren’t decided by voting contests. I’ve seen plenty of good movies receive much lower ratings than they deserve while terrible movies (Tropic Thunder, for instance) get lauded. I sense some flawed reasoning here.

  18. Ken Hanke

    I’m going to have to side with TimThomas on this one. Giving away the brother’s name would be a plot spoiler, but you explicitly stated that he had no name.

    No, I explicitly stated that he’s billed in the credits as “Ben’s Brother.”

    And using a RottenTomatoes rating as some sort of authority on what is and isn’t a good movie?

    No, I used it simply to point out that a significant portion of the critical populace must, by “Tim’s” comments be as lacking in humanity as I apparently am for not boo-hoo-hooing over this movie’s assaults on the tear ducts.

  19. Kristi

    oh thank you for this review. I went into this movie expecting a deep an engaging mystery and hey some good old fashion Will Smithness. Sadly I got nothing. To those trying to say that this movie is deep. No. It is not. It’s predictable and annoyingly angsty. I personaly love dark movies but there is a difference between an actual good movie that shows us human difficulties and ‘Truths’ and movies like this crap-pile that are just trying to tug at your heartstrings and make you feel as though you’ve been to a ‘smart people movie.’

    Bottom line, if you want something deep and beautiful go to some of the good films that are out right now. Why see this crap when Slumdog Millionare is playing?

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