Countdown to Claus: The Family Man (2000)

What if…Nic Cage actually took good roles again?

A cutthroat investment banker Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage), who eschews emotional ties, is transported into the prosaic life he might have had if he’d wed his college sweetheart (Téa Leoni). Instead of a Ferrari, Campbell drives a malfunctioning minivan in the suburbs and is saddled with two screaming kids, but he learns to love every minute of it.

Going into this flick, I was expecting some good and some bad. Bad because it’s Brett Ratner directing and he blows but good because I’m a Nic Cage fan and the plot seemed pretty cool. However, the merging of Cage and Ratner did not bone out as well as I would have liked to hope.

What I have to say about this flick that was actually very good was the fact that the plot was a pretty cool twist on the whole ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ plot. It got even better when we started to see how this dude, Jack, reacts to everything he has to deal with now because he is indeed a lower-class citizen than before. Seeing this Wall Street hooligan have to live his day by putting on his own clothes and wearing shoes that are less than 200 dollhairs, actually cracked me up and I think worked for the most part.

The script also showed some very bright moments in about the first 40 minutes where we become comfortable enough with these characters, the story, and the tone and it keeps on going for very well. I mean yeah, there are the cheesy moments we usually get with these kind of flicks, but the script actually made them feel authentic rather than just predictable and generic. To be honest though, I wish the film stopped while it was ahead.

The problem with the script is that after the first hour or so, we start to get the non-stop unoriginal and sentimental moments that usually go down in Christmas films, let alone a riff on a classic story like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. The film had me laughing and feeling some emotions towards the events and the characters but as time went on, I just sort of felt like this film was just using cheesy moment after cheesy moment to make me feel something for these characters and what’s going on.

Also, for a film that is trying so hard to be a film that’s all cheerful and pro-family it sure is awfully mean, especially to the regular blue-collar working families of America. Having Jack Campbell, this big-ass Wall Street dude, you get a lot of “rich people are better than poorer people” sayings a lot and at first, it’s understandable but then after awhile it really started to make me wonder what this film was trying to do or say. That’s where I think Ratner messes up because he spends so much time on Campbell being all self-absorbed that when it actually comes to him being a loving family man (hence the title) I never understood what the film was trying to say.

Is going for a big job like being a Wall Street tycoon bad because you make a lot of money and you don’t have time to be with your family? Or is that you should make more chances with your life, such as marrying a college sweet-heart? I didn’t understand what this film’s message was and what really bothered me was the fact that the ending only added more confusion. Yes, there is a great deal of hope left open in the end but I felt as if the film lost me a bit too much by then I just couldn’t really care all that much considering it felt a bit forced.

Note to Brett Ratner: don’t make fun of the people who usually go out and give money to see your films in the first place.

Where this film really worked for me was the performances by the two lead performers. Nicolas Cage is a guy that I always stand by in no matter what it is, and I think he was great here as Jack Campbell because he gets to show a lot of his talent here. He’s a little goofy, vain, but also a pretty nice dude and through Cage we get to see that nice guy in Campbell. There were some moments where Campbell shows his true emotions and they really rang true because of Cage. Téa Leoni was also a real treat to have on screen as Kate because she’s just the most energetic person on screen the whole time. Leoni always seems like she’s having a fun time whether it’s being sarcastic or a little bit playful, but either way Leoni is just awesome here and it’s easy to see why Campbell would have to review his life after leaving her in the first place. I was also disappointed by how they didn’t use Don Cheadle as much as they did Jeremy Piven. Oh well.

Consensus: Although it may seem like a cheat for me to like The Family Man even though it’s incredibly sentimental, cheesy, and confusing when it comes to what it’s trying to say. However, I think that the performances are great and were able to hold me over along with the overall good-feeling of the tone as well.



  1. I remember when I first saw It’s a Wonderful Life, I wished I got to see more of George Bailey’s alternative universe life.

    The Family Man extended on that and I thought it was fun and fairly well-executed. I’m a sucker for these kinds of stories. Sure, it’s gooey and sentimental (which is surprising, coming from Brett Ratner, who kind of looks like an A+ douche), but it capitalizes on the “what-if” concept, something that feels eerily universal.

    I understand what you mean by the confusion over the film’s message, but that’s just a typical cliche: anti-workaholism, pro-family. It’s been done over and over again and we’re just supposed to accept that spending time with family always trumps more money to provide for them.

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