How could the Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell, whose opinions have often stirred me and which have always warranted respect, fall for the emotional dog food being peddled by Seven Pounds, the Gabriele Muccino-Will Smith movie?

Howell says he’s “inclined to give the picture passing marks for two reasons. The first is that Smith is not trying to make us love him…this is no small risk for Hollywood’s most genial superstar.” Bullshit. Smith’s character may be rude or anxious or perplexing at times, but at no time is Seven Pounds not trying its darndest to present this guy, thorny as he is in certain respects, as decent, caring and compassionate.

The other reason, says Howell, “is that Smith’s acting, and that of co-star Rosario Dawson. It’s deeper than we’ve seen from either of them, and they click. We have no reason to like his character” — again, bullshit — “or to totally trust hers, but we feel as drawn to them as they do to each other.” Oh no, we don’t! It is impossible to be drawn to any characters in a big-budget sensitivity-session confection such as this one. It’s just another Smith job, is all it is. And all Smith films work on more or less the same principle.