The Family Man Movie Review
I've never seen It's a Wonderful Life so I can't compare the two, but there is one thing I know for sure: The Family Man is a funny, entertaining, and heartfelt movie that anyone can enjoy, despite age or gender.
Venerable Nicolas Cage gives us one of his better performances in the last five years as Wall Street honcho Jack Campbell, who one day, shortly after breaking up a potentially deadly situation, wakes up to find that he is married to the college sweetheart he left at the airport thirteen years ago and that they have two kids. His college sweetheart, Kate, played by Téa Leoni, is a non-profit lawyer and he is a tire salesman.
Of course, this situation brings forth lots of comedic situations, especially since Jack can't remember anything about this alternate life (he has to figure out everything on his own). His desperate frustration at the very beginning is quite believable and throughout the film his facial expressions and statements work for great comedy and great acting. His reactions to and about the kids are the best ("I have two kids. Good ones."). He has to learn who his friends are, what he does for a living, when his anniversary is, and so forth.
The Family Man also works on a second level, as a romance, between Kate and Jack. Jack has to deal with suddenly having a wife and two kids, a less than ideal lifestyle, and not knowing when his anniversary is, so they have a complicated time to put it lightly. But as things go on Jack begins to fall in love with Kate, and he realizes that his other life really didn't fulfill everything he needed. Still, he does have the ambition to become something greater than a tire salesman... Unfortunately, the movie sort of drops that specific sub story partway through.
The romantic element is so-so in the way that not too much happens through the course of the movie, but on the other hand, it accomplishes what it is trying to accomplish; make the ending be a happy ending. As The Family Man weaves towards the end, you do begin to wonder just how this is going to end: Is he going to give up his other life completely and get to stay with Kate in this alternate life? Is he going to return to the alternate life, find Kate, and start a new relationship? Or is it going to end sadly and he's not going to be able to find Kate, and so he has to live knowing that he could have had a happier life if he had made a different choice thirteen years earlier?
The ending, without giving much away, is a little cheesy, but I guess it had to be done someway. I also would have liked to have seen a little deeper inside Don Cheadle's character, to find out just what he is about and who he is.
The ending is just a little weak but otherwise The Family Man is an excellent film for the whole family or for a date. It stays consistently funny the entire way through and also has a level of romance that is subtle but solid. The Family Man is a good Christmas movie that will stick around for years to come.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.