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The Family Man (2000)

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni, more...
Director: Brett Ratner, Brett Ratner
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Universal Studios
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Fantasy
Running Time: 126 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

In this whimsical romantic comedy that recalls It's a Wonderful Life, Nicolas Cage plays Jack Campbell, a workaholic bachelor who gets to see what his life might have been like had he stayed with his old sweetheart, Kate (Tea Leoni). Thirteen years before, Jack accepted a brokerage internship that marred his relationship with Kate, under the promise that they would only be separated one year. But much later, Jack has become an urban Wall Street exec with no wife or family of his own, and a mysterious proxy (Don Cheadle) offers him the opportunity to step into the life he left behind. After falling asleep in his posh New York apartment, Jack awakens to find himself in bed with his now-wife Kate, daughter Annie (Makenzie Vega), and a new baby, none of which he has ever experienced in his fast-paced single life. After discovering his "real" life has been eliminated, he begrudgingly tries to fit in with his newly appointed life as a family man. The Family Man also stars Saul Rubinek and Jeremy Piven. ~ Jason Clark, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

A more wonderful life by kiume June 4, 2005 - 3:15 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
The obvious precedent to The Family Man is It's a Wonderful Life--in some respects it's almost a remake--except that The Family Man is a much better movie. Admittedly, I've become Capra heretic of late. The two movies from which the term "Capraesque" evolved I now classify along with most Spielberg films. The first time you're wowed, but on subsequent viewings they only get creepier and creepier.

Ostensibly a "Christmas" movie, It's a Wonderful Life is a disturbing paean to the triumph of the group over the individual, and the blatant emotional manipulation of the individual for the "common good." It takes place in an alternate universe in which the absence of Jimmy Stewart rends the fabric of space and time and opens the Hell Mouth beneath the local Savings & Loan (oh, wait, that was a Buffy episode).

A strange message to be fashioned by a Republican like Capra, reportedly a "dogged Roosevelt hater" (like Clinton, maybe Roosevelt made conservatives go loopy).

The Family Man reverses the cause and effect in It's a Wonderful Life. We begin not with the saintly George Bailey, but with Mr. Potter. Nicolas Cage's hard-driving investment banker, though, is no Scrooge. He's not a bad bloke at all. As far as hard-driving investment bankers go, the world would be better off with more like him. What he is is a tad cocky, not prone to searching self-examination.

It is, in fact, a good deed that attracts the attention of his Clarence, Don Cheadle (who with only a few minutes on-screen anchors the entire movie). He wakes up the next morning to find himself living the life he would have had he not dumped Tea Leoni thirteen years earlier. Except that he still is that hard-driving investment banker, who can't accept that he's got two kids and a mortgage and an utterly prosaic life in the boring suburbs.

At a critical point juncture in this struggle, Cage's Jack Campbell desperately tells his wife that he must recreate his old life because New York "is the center of the universe." Of course, he discovers at length that it is not. Yet, oddly enough, that is the whole weird point of It's a Wonderful Life: George Baily rejoins the hive mind convinced that he is the center of the universe, who can send thousands to a watery grave by simply deciding to take a vacation.

Stewart's George Baily looks backwards to justify the present. Cage's Jack Campbell, on the other hand, chooses the possibility of a "wonderful life" with eyes wide open towards the future, the result of his efforts to reconcile the past and this alternate present, not: "If you don't come back we'll kill this cute kitten," or some perverse sense of self-abnegation.

In the blink of an eye, all of George Baily's dreams have evaporated into the ether, annihilated by the collective will of the rather incompetent taskmasters he serves. Jack Campbell's fate, in contrast, is both more humble and more hopeful. He looks forward fully conscious of what he lost during those thirteen might-have-been years. But we know Jack is the kind of guy who can get things done. And, you know, he's not a bad bloke at all.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.22)
54 Votes
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