FAMILY MAN, THE
(director: Brett Ratner; screenwriters: David Diamond/David Weissman; cinematographer: Dante Spinotti; editor: Mark Helfrich; music: Danny Elfman; cast: Nicholas Cage (Jack Campbell), Tea Leoni (Kate Reynolds), Don Cheadle (Cash), Jeremy Piven (Arnie), Saul Rubinek (Alan Mintz), Mary Beth Hurt (Adelle), Josef Sommer (Lassiter); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Marc Abraham, Tony Ludwig, Alan Riche, Howard Rosenman; Beacon Pictures; 2000)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
So-so mainstream director Brett Ratner (“Money Talks”/”Rush Hour”) goes the wheedling Frank Capra Christmas story route with this derivative, predictable, sentimental, feel-good story about re-evaluating your life before it’s too late. The reverse version of Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” is co-written as crowd-pleasing sap by David Diamond and David Weissman.
The emotionally ruthless protagonist Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage) is a wealthy Manhattan Wall Street shark and a swinging bachelor, a vain yuppie not living by the Christmas spirit who Hollywood intends to give a lesson to be a good guy or else I think Santa will put him on his naughty list.
One day after Jack meets the mysterious Black stickup man played by Don Cheadle, in a convenience store robbery, he wakes up the next day with a change of life plans, as instead of following his current path of gaining enormous wealth in his career and living a life of hedonism, he’s magically married to his high school sweetheart Kate (Tea Leoni), raising a family in the suburbs and taking a humble working-class job as a tire salesman. At first Jack sneers at this and then goes through a few phases of fighting against it until he accepts it as the rich emotional life he should have chosen over his empty one. Then Cheadle returns to put him back in his former life. How that turns out we are not allowed to know for sure, as this supposed modern-day Christmas story ends on an ambiguous note.
It’s best served cold as a well-acted but heavily flawed time-killer, whose vacuous Christmas story has no explanation for Cheadle’s magical presence (which makes the sentimental film rather absurd). But it’s well-acted and well-crafted, even if it’s a fake Christmas story.
REVIEWED ON 12/20/2020 GRADE: C