Family Man

3 out of 10


Man - Money + Family = Success?

Sulphur + Oxygen = Sulphur Dioxide. We all know the equation and the result is always the same: a really bad smell. Writers David Weissman and David Diamond, a pair of bozos who mercifully seem to have put the pen away after the universally panned "Evolution", also wrote one of the all-time most fomuluaic movies in cheap attempt to recreate the magic of "It's A Wonderful Life". Indeed, with characters and a plot like this, that's exactly what "Family Man" would have needed to succeed, not a director, but a magician.

With his eyebrows peaked like a naughty puppy, Nicholas Cage takes on the predictable suffering of the Job-like Jack Campbell. Years after leaving the love of his life at the airport to become a top flight banking executive, he receives an answerphone message from her, leaving him wondering what ever became of her. Next morning, he finds himself in bed with her, now his wife of 13 years, as he begins to live what life would have been like if he had chosen her over his career. Gone is his position in the finance house, his flashy sports car and his apartment on Fifth Avenue to be replaced with being a tyre salesman in New Jersey, driving a van that rarely starts and a household filled with screaming children as he struggles to cope with overdue bills...And, in case we don't understand what's going on, the dreadful Davids have written in Don Cheadle as "Cash". To avoid looking too much like bald plagurism of "It's A Wonderful Life", he is not stated to be an angel, but then again he is not really explained at all, ironic, as he is the one who explains the entire plot in a few sentences to all of us suckers, stupid enough to have paid to paid to see this that we need a mentor to hold our hand.

Despite supposedly being the wife he needs, Tea Leoni as Kate Reynolds comes across as a human backhoe, bulldozing ahead without consulting him and caring less about his wishes as his secretary did in his former existence. Indeed, the imagery of the mundane is so well presented by director Brett Ratner, more usually renown for lacklustre B movie sequels like "Rush Hour 2" and "Red Dragon", that one has to agree with his first decision ...STAY ON THE AEROPLANE!

There's humour and there's warmth, but not a minute goes by when you cannot guess the next line. Set at Christmas, all the usual trite trash is trotted out in precisely the right sequence. The black mugger, New Jersey being the icon of the mundane and with even the bad guys, the bank who first take Jack away from his true love being Barclays in England, its a catalogue of cliches. Complete with the sick friend in the last reel to add gravitas after a few lighter moments in the middle of the movie, the story seems straight out of "How To Write A Hollywood Screenplay" with the blanks filled in, no matter how hard Cage tries.

Howard Hughes once suggested that those who say that money doesn't matter are usually so rich that they don't need to worry about it any more. Likewise, "Family Man" snacks of some rich bunch of Hollywood executives who have made so much dough and screwed enough bimbos that they feel its their right to tell us all how to live. After a "road to Jerusalem" conversion from greedy psychos to humans, they know it's their duty show us tell what to value as we're just mere mortals who wouldn't know otherwise...and all for the price of a DVD rental!

Ironically, the message of the movie, namely how good life would be if Jack Campbell junks his flashy city life, is the precise opposite of "It's A Wonderul Life". In 1946, it took director Frank Capra and five other top screenwriters to show us how to look at our lives as achievement, no matter what we had done with them, to value them and not to let others convince us otherwise...clearly a concept lost on the makers of "Family Man" and the two dreadful Davids.

A Catalogue of Cliches

Film Critic:Robert L Thompsett