The Family Man Review

by David N. Butterworth (dnb AT dca DOT net)
November 16th, 2001

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2001 David N. Butterworth

*** (out of ****)

In "The Family Man," Jack Campbell is afforded the opportunity to experience life as it might have been. And who hasn't once ruminated over that intriguing impossibility. What if the road not taken were taken? What if we had made different decisions in life, if we had married someone else, chosen a different career path, or opted to have kids or not have kids? As played by the typically-engaging Nicolas Cage, Jack is a single, high-powered Wall Street investment broker who has it all: a six-figure salary, an eye-catching set of wheels, and the freedom to do whatever the heck he likes. Until one snowy Christmas Eve, when Jack enters a grocery store on his way home from the office and finds himself in the middle of a hold-up. With complete disregard for his own safety, Jack diffuses the situation and awakes the next morning lying beside his college sweetheart (Téa Leoni) and the frightening realization that his former life no longer exists. As Jack is forced to play out this synthetic suburban fantasy (he's a New Jersey tire salesman now), he finds himself in increasing conflict between the life-in-the-fast-lane workaholic he once was, and the loving husband and father-of-two he has magically become. Cage eases into the role with the charm and affability of Jimmy Stewart and its no coincidence, since "The Family Man" is essentially a reworking of that Christmas staple "It's a Wonderful Life" (right down to its angelic Clarence Oddbody, here fleetingly realized by Don Cheadle). Brett Ratner's update is poignant without being sappy and for all its shopworn situations, it's got those deep-seated emotional trappings that are hard to shrug off. Warm and soothing, "The Family Man" is not a perfect film, but it's a perfect film for the holiday season.

David N. Butterworth
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