The Family Man



Click here to buy & sell on eBay!US 2000
dir Brett Ratner
scr David Diamond, David Weissman
cin Dante Spinotti
stars Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle
125 minutes

The Family Man isn’t anything groundbreaking or spectacular, but neither is it anywhere near as bad as the gruesome treacle-fest threatened by its schmaltzy title and poster – mainly thanks to the quirkily engaging Cage. He’s Jack Campbell, a ruthless, unmarried businessman, who, one snowy Xmas eve, has a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger (Cheadle) in a convenience store. Waking up next morning, Jack finds himself experiencing a protracted “glimpse” of the poorer-but-happier family life he could have had. Instead of cavorting with a glamourpuss model (Amber Valleta) in his high-rise Manhattan ‘condo’, he’s happily married to his student-days girlfriend (Leoni), working for her tyre-dealer dad, and the father of two small children in an unassuming New Jersey suburb.

It’s shameless Christmassy fantasy, competently directed, beautifully shot by Michael Mann’s regular DP Spinotti, and quite sharply written, with a more rounded view of both Wall Street and suburbia than you’d expect from this type of movie – not to a mention refreshingly subdued score. That said, there’s no reason why it should sprawl beyond two hours – Family Man starts losing steam halfway through, and finally tails off to an overextended, wholly implausible (but undeniably romantic) conclusion.

It’s also unfortunate that, having secured the services of Cheadle, one of the top half-dozen character actors in Hollywood, the script only finds room for three very brief appearances, while it’s anybody’s guess what the film-makers thought they were doing by giving Jack’s cute little girl such an idiotic ‘Noo Joyzy’ accent. The basic blueprint is hard to miss, of course. Jack’s bewilderment as he finds himself suddenly plonked into a ‘what if’ universe suggests he’s the only thirtysomething American unfamiliar with It’s A Wonderful Life. Not an accusation that could ever be levelled at Family Man‘s scriptwriters.

6th January 2001