The producers of the new Will Smith awards-bait vehicle Seven Pounds would like it very, very much if you'd go ahead and think of their film as a mystery, despite the fact that only the most morbidly inattentive viewer could possibly fail to figure out virtually every twist in the story from details supplied in the first five minutes. The viewer accustomed to reading any old bit of text flashed up on screen for more than a few seconds will even have figured out the desperate supplementary twist that the film delivers in the final push to wrap up the story, although I suspect that nobody other than the film's screenwriter Grant Nieporte will understand why this second twist happens. Nor, I think, would that many people anticipate the hero's ultimate fate, but that is not because it is well-hidden within the film, but because it is so godawfully stupid that even if it crosses your mind that the story might be headed that direction, you will probably discard the notion as being far too insane for a major Hollywood production.

Here is the spoiler-free version of what happens, assuming that "spoiler-free" means that anything indicated in the very first scene doesn't count as a spoiler, even if it wrecks the film's oh-so-crafty ad campaign: Ben Thomas (Will Smith) is an IRS agent carrying around a great deal of pain, and he wants to kill himself, but in order to give back to a world which he has taken too much from, he wants to will his organs to strangers who prove themselves deserving and worthy, working from a list of ill people with compatible blood types provided by his childhood best friend, a hopelessly corrupt doctor (Barry Pepper) whose willingness to bend the system while shamelessly violating the Hippocratic Oath is merely one of the scores of creepy-ass details that the filmmakers wish very much that we don't notice too hard.

Other details along the same lines: we're not supposed to be bothered by the particular methods which Ben uses to research the worthiness of his targets, the least offensive of which is his misuse of official IRS databases; the skeevier things involve stalking them in the hospital after visiting hours, calling them at work to harass them, or spying on them in restaurants. Thus will he separate the good people like blind Ezra Turner (Woody Harrelson in what just barely passes the "cameo" threshold) from the bad people like cancer-ridden Stewart Goodman (Tim Kelleher) using criteria like, "Does he yell obscenities at customers?" or "Does he permit old people to sit for days in their own filth?" As his course of stalking brings him to follow Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), a woman with congenital heart failure, he naturally falls in love - stalking being a beloved synonym for courting in the vocabulary of screenwriters from all walks of life - and of course she falls right back in love with him, after a brief phase of wondering who this terrifying man is who keeps staring at her in the hospital is, just to show she's not easy, y'know. This sends Ben down a tragic path: he has finally found something to give his life meaning, but if he doesn't kill himself and give her his heart, she will die herself. Kidding! Seven Pounds isn't nearly that complex. They just have artfully PG-13 sex that in theory should send this woman who can't stand upright without passing out into cardiac arrest. But that's probably something else that we weren't really supposed to notice.

It's stretching to say that Seven Pounds has the worst screenplay of 2008, or even the worst screenplay in theaters, not while The Day the Earth Stood Still is still in the top 5 at the box office. But it is shockingly bad storytelling, and I haven't even gotten to the Final Twist, which I shan't spoil except to say that the story would proceed exactly the same way without it. You wouldn't even need to cut out the character who explains the twist (which, again, was lying in plain sight for anyone paying attention in two key scenes), or even change that character's motivation in every single scene but the last. Nor have I mentioned the incredibly fucking lame suicide by jellyfish in the bathtub climax. But these are problems that any half-intelligent viewer could pick out; my purpose here is not to explicate, but to warn. Stay away from Seven Pounds, which not even Will Smith's generous charisma can save from Idiot Shoals!

Directed by Gabriele Muccino, the mind behind Smith's last terrible Oscarbait effort, 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness (two years later, and knowing the explanation, I still want to claw my eyes out at that spelling), it's actually kind of amazing how much Seven Pounds has in common with that film. Both are theoretically uplifting films that are completely depressing for nearly all their running time, not just for what happens but for how badly everyone involved misjudges the relative warm fuzziness of each scene; both have endings that everybody in the audience ought to be able to predict from the first scene; both are filmed with a vΓ©ritΓ©-lite handheld, high-grain style that manages only to make the movie ugly in addition to being depressing (though it might just be my raving hatred of handheld camera talking here). The key difference is that, judging from its stone-cold opening weekend, Seven Pounds will not be continuing Will Smith's chain of $100 million pictures, and while I'm kind of sad - he was our last huge movie star - I also don't want anybody involved in the perpetuation of something as wretched as this to get away unpunished.

3/10