The Family Man
dir Brett Ratner scr David Diamond, David Weissman
with Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven, Makenzie Vega, Saul Rubinek, Josef Sommer, Mary Beth Hurt, Lisa Thornhill, Amber Valletta, Harve Presnell, Francine York
release UK & US 22.Dec.00
Universal 00/US 1h59 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
It's a Wonderful Life meets A Christmas Carol in this heartwarming wannabe holiday perennial--thoroughly engaging yet nothing new. Jack (Cage) is a high-powered Wall Street broker, a New York playboy with no regrets. On Christmas Eve he meets a mysterious guy (Cheadle) who says mysterious things to him. And on Christmas morning he wakes up married to the girlfriend (Leoni) he left 13 years earlier to pursue his career. Now he's a tire salesman with a sexy, adoring wife, a house in Jersey and two kids, including the impossibly adorable Annie (Vega), who thinks Daddy has been taken over by aliens.

Ratner energetically refuses to play each scene as expected, and this whiff of reality in the humour and situations makes the film watchable, helped immensely by solid, unsentimental performances from Cage and Leoni. The rest of the characters get a pretty short shrift--stereotypically comic, goofy, seductive, wizened, whatever they need to be ... and again well-played by a fine supporting cast. Unfortunately there's nothing here that we haven't seen countless times before (most notably in the much edgier Australian take on the very same story, Me Myself I, earlier this year). That said, the film still has the ability to tug at the old heartstrings with its deeply personal storyline and themes that will resonate inside even the most cynical film critic. It's very efficiently made gloss, and it does have some substance to it. It's just a pity the filmmakers didn't go for something with more earthy integrity in it instead of trying so hard to make a cosy classic.

[PG--themes, innuendo, some language] 7.Dec.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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