Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Brett Ratner
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven, Saul Rubinek, Josef Sommer, Harve Presnell, Amber Valletta, Mackenzie Vega.
The spirit of Frank Capra’s enduring Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life runs throughout this well meaning romantic comedy/drama in which a rapacious, uptight Wall Street broker suddenly discovers that maybe greed is not so good and, sometimes, the best things in life are the simple things.
Thirteen years ago, hot shot financial whiz kid Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) left his long time girl friend Kate (Tea Leoni) and headed off to London for an internship with a prestigious brokerage firm. Now he is a rich and powerful company president brokering multi-million dollar mergers, living the life of luxury, and thinking little of working hard during the Christmas holiday period. He thinks he has everything and has no regrets about his life. Until a chance encounter with a homeless man (Don Cheadle, recently seen in the awful Mission To Mars, etc) on the snow swept streets gives him a glimpse of what life would have been like if Jack had made a different decision on that fateful day thirteen years earlier.
Suddenly Jack wakes up, married to Kate, with two young children and a dog, a house in the burbs, and a dead end job selling tyres retail for Kate’s father. His initial anger, at his lost ambition and the way that his dreams have turned to dust, and his confusion is written off as the symptoms of a mid-life crisis. But slowly Jack begins to warm to this alternative life, and is slowly transformed into a better person for the experience.
The ideals espoused in The Family Man somehow seem to run counter to those values Hollywood has been pushing for years, and its message about being content with a modest but happy life would not be out of place in a Disney film. But somehow it’s not all that convincing or credible. Brett Ratner (whose pervious films were Nothing To Lose and the energetic action comedy Rush Hour) handles the material with a deft hand, although he tends to belabour the obvious message. The film is also patronising, overlong and overly sentimental.
However, the performances of the two leads are solid and ground the film in a reality. Cage gives another of his edgy, neurotic, intense performances, but his energy here somehow suits the character’s confusion and sense of displacement. Leoni (better known as Mrs David Duchovny) brings grace and intelligence to her performance.
Unfortunately, one can’t help a sense of deja vu, that we’ve seen this kind of alternative lifestyles drama before – Sliding Doors, Me Myself & I, etc – and that The Family Man ultimately adds little that is new or fresh or important to the genre.