Movie Review: THE FAMILY MAN, 2000

Top Christmas Movie of All-Time

THE FAMILY MAN, 2000
Classic Movie Review

Directed by Bret Ratner
Starring Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni
Review by Russell Hill

SYNOPSIS:

A successful unmarried Wall Street broker wakes one morning living the life of a family man with a wife and two kids.

REVIEW:

Very similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, The Family Man is a movie that could be forgiven for acting as a vehicle for Nicholas Cage’s talents, but is much more than that.

A fantastical tale of asking questions that everyone must ask themselves at one point in life, it is Jack Campbell’s (Cage) story we follow. Jack is a very successful and extremely rich Wall Street broker. One Christmas Eve, he finds himself on the verge of landing a deal that would make him richer beyond his wildest dreams, as well as earning major kudos with the boss. When waking on Christmas Day, a woman (Leoni) is draped across him, followed by two young children who run into the room. Freaked out to say the least, Cage overreacts. Where is the life he once had, he asks himself.

The night before, Jack had helped stop what could have been quite a horrible robbery. The person responsible for the potential robbery (Cheadle) seems to know who Jack is. What do you want Jack, he asks. I’ve got everything I need, replies Jack. But the next morning when he awakes, everything he has that made him happy such as money, a great career and top-quality suits are all gone. Due to his good deed, Jack believes he has found himself in hell. But all is not lost.

In spite of this minimalist monetary and possession existence, there are many good elements to this new life. Loving wife of thirteen years, two adorable kids and a best friend that would walk over fiery coals for him. Although his life is of a lower status than before, men want to be him and women want to have him. But to Jack, this isn’t what he wanted. Despite not possessing this in his previous affluent life, he sacrificed this exact situation for his career but, as in every situation that appears when we are presented with it, we just deal with it. Roll on. Pull your socks up. Get on with it. But, with Jack’s predicament and situation, will he actually enjoy himself or wish he was somewhere else?

For those who have not seen The Family Man, and believe me I’ve met many who know nothing of this movie, it would be too easy to class it as simply a vehicle for Cage. Although it does borrow elements from It’s a Wonderful Life, the look of the movie is a very classy one that moves along very quickly with it ending as soon as you know it. This is exactly the type of movie Cage is made for. Think of Cage’s more recent mainstream movies, and you are sure to reel in horror at their very existence. Ghost Rider was an abomination of cinema, and The Wicker Man should never have been given the green light for production. And don’t get me started on the National Treasure franchise. Cage is simply not suited for these kinds of movies, with their high-octane moments, and is more suitable to play anything but an action-hero. In The Family Man, he is an opposite character and definitely not your stereotypical leading man. As in The Weather Man, his depressive character was much more suitable for him and, as with The Family Man, harks back to the days when he started out in more independent movies as an everyday-man.

But hey, Cage wasn’t the only actor in the film. Not always a fan of Tea Leoni’s work, her performance in Deep Impact was laughable to say the least, this is by far the best role I have seen her in. Her character Kate is one of the loving wife and Leoni really pulls it off. Her girl-next-door persona fits well into the character of Kate, and is as cute as a baby seal. Cheadle is great too. Despite his talents wasted in the horrific remake of The Italian Job, which just like The Wicker Man remake should never have been made, he relishes every screen moment. At some points, his performance seems very Shakespearian in the way he recites his lines and is certainly admirable. His scenes, although minimal, is used to his full potential. Cheadle has since moved onto greater roles since The Family Man, a prime example being Hotel Rwanda, and is sure to continue being a shining example of what an actor in Hollywood should be. As long as he doesn’t take any more roles like in The Italian Job, that is.

The surprise of the film, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the role of Jack and Kate’s young daughter Annie. Played by Makenzie Vega, she was only six years of age when this film was released but acts beyond her years. In the Making of… feature on the DVD, Cage remarks how great an actress she is. Acting alongside an A-List cast might be daunting to some people, but Vega takes it in her stride and certainly matches her fellow actors in all scenes she appears in. She only had a solitary role before playing Annie, and since then has gone on to appear in such movies as Sin City and X-Men 3. This reviewer hopes for her continued success in Hollywood.

To those who have not seen The Family Man, I strongly recommend you see this. I know it may sound difficult but try to cast Cage’s recent roles out of your mind. The performances by all is of the highest quality. Tea Leoni for once gives a credible performance and the emergence of Makenzie Vega as a potentially great talent is certainly worth a watch.

 

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