The Family Man Movie Review

Just in time for Christmas comes a story worthy of both Ebenezer and Jimmy Stewart, with Wild at Heart's Nicholas Cage cast in the role of the out of touch rich guy. Jack Campbell (Cage) is not a bad man. He's not even a callous man. He's just a regular guy who happens to believe that millions of dollars, a beautiful blonde lover, and a Ferrari in the garage are ample compensation for whatever he may be missing in the way of mediocre suburban living.

But when this good-natured Wall Street mega-titan puts his life on the line to save a convenience store from a firefight, he makes a big mistake. Because that kid with the pistol (Don Cheadle) is no ordinary hoodlum -- he's some kind of wacky angel or ghost-of-Christmas-in-a-parallel-universe or something. And little does Jack know, as he lay himself down to sleep on Christmas Eve, that he'll wake the next morning to the life he could've had if only he'd married his college girlfriend (Téa Leoni, Deep Impact) instead of following his ambition to become one of the world's richest, most powerful men.

The movie tries earnestly to make a case for the intrinsic value of middle class life, but fails miserably to pull through, largely because it makes power brokering look so easy and fun. I won't bog you down in all the little details of Jack's boring suburban life, but suffice it to say he makes the honest, simple life seem pretty unappealing.

Cage's performance is strong enough, at times even believable, but his hairpiece needs some serious work. Leoni is a subtle charmer as the spunky mother of two, and Cheadle's work in the beginning of the film carries a potency not seen since his appearance in Boogie Nights. But, oddly enough, it is the child actor Mackenzie Vega who adds the most dimension to the picture as Annie, the Campbells' precocious daughter. The only really funny or heartwarming moments in the film revolve around Annie's frank (but misguided) understanding that Cage is not her real father but an alien come to observe our planet. Never has the phrase "Welcome to Earth" drawn such touching laughter from an audience. (Except maybe in E.T.. Did they say that in E.T.?)

The Family Man is, in the end, a carefree tale of love and bad New Jersey accents. For every man who's ever wondered what life he could have had if he'd never married the mother of his children, this film has the answer. And, just as you might have suspected, you may have been better off alone. While the film fails in many ways to reach a memorable conclusion, it just might carry enough soft-hearted cheer to make a tired old married couple smile on Christmas eve.

Cage rights Leoni's head.


The Family Man Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


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