Starring: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson
Directed by: Gabriele Muccino (“The Pursuit of Happyness”)
Written by: Grant Nieporte (debut)

In “Seven Pounds,” debut screenwriter Grant Nieporte and “Pursuit of Happyness” director Gabriele Muccino keep the audience in the dark for so long, there’s no way to find middle ground between the lagging story and its foregone conclusion.

Will Smith plays Ben Thomas, an emotionally distraught IRS agent who killed seven people, including his wife, in an automobile accident, and vows to make amends for the pain he has caused. His plan: Ben will commit suicide, but not before finding seven people and “drastically changing their circumstances” by giving them something they need.

For example, when he meets Ezra Turner, a blind meat salesman, Ben decides after his death, he will donate his eyes to him. For a kid with leukemia he sees at the hospital, Ben donates bone marrow. A love interest presents herself to Ben in the form of Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), who is in dire need of a heart transplant (cue Ben’s giving nature).

It’s fairly obvious where Muccino wants to take this and has no shame in being so blatant about it. Smith is a talented actor, but in “Seven Pounds” he lays it on thick and the performance ends up too schmaltzy for its own good. Scenes of Ben thinking while staring out into the ocean, thinking while showering, thinking in the rain, thinking in the grass, are contrived. Smith is trying way too hard for an Oscar here and it shows. Any real emotion should have come from the relationships Ben creates (even from afar) with the people he plans on helping. But there’s really only time for Dawson’s character and everyone else ultimately ends up on the backburner.

Instead of “Seven Pounds,” a reference to William Shakespeare’s “A Merchant of Venice,” Nieporte and Muccino should have aimed for a couple of ounces and not spread themselves so thin. But reach they do and try giving us something profound to think about.  It’s not so much thoughtful as it is apparent and improbable.

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