Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
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I don’t really think that remakes are a good idea. Once in a while, a remake serves its point: improve upon the formula of the original by using modern-day sensibilities. Most of the time, however, a remake is used to milk out a franchise by half-heartedly updating an old movie for a new, “hip” audience. On the other hand, some filmmakers opt to “borrow” elements from old films and assume that no one will notice. Normally, that would infuriate me. Strangely, I felt no hate of any kind towards The Family Man.
Jack (Nicholas Cage) is a rich Wall Street head honcho who drives the costliest cars, drinks the finest wine and dates the most beautiful (if not particularly intelligent) women. He heads to a convenience store on Christmas Eve, and is the witness of a hold-up by Cash (Don Cheadle). He pays off Cash and has a conversation with him. Cash is obviously some kind of angel, a trash-talking, gun-toting Clarence. So when Jack mentions that he has everything he needs, Cash makes it a point to prove him wrong.
The next morning, Jack wakes up in bed with Tea Léoni (not a bad wake to wake up, indeed) who happens to have been the girlfriend he left behind thirteen years ago. They have kids, they have a big ugly dog, he wears flannel pyjamas and he sells tires for a living. For half an hour, we are treated to Nicholas Cage looking uncomfortable and doing dumb things.
Strangely, I was expecting the worst for this movie. Shallow, predictable, manipulative, deja-vu are all words I used to describe the film. Then I saw it. Brett Ratner (Rush Hour 1 and 2!) has crafted a somewhat unoriginal but completely entertaining film. I’m not going to deny that it borrows heavily from one of my favorite films of all time, but as I said above, this time it improves it with modern sensibilities.
The Family Man was written by the same guys who wrote Evolution for Ivan Reitman. Strangely, none of the mismatched humor and tired pratfalls of that film make it in The Family Man. Instead, The Family Man serves up a light, enjoyable screenplay that goes bumpy in a few areas. Sometimes, the script reaches moments of surprising depth and coherence. Other times, scenes feel flimsy, underwritten and totally unnecessary.
Think of who the 2000’s Jimmy Stewart is. Robin Williams? Maybe. Tom Hanks? Probably. Nicholas Cage? No. And yet, it was Cage who was cast as Jack Campbell. This scared the crap out of me because Cage hasn’t done anything good since 1995 (besides Bringing Out The Dead) and this is hardly Leaving Las Vegas material. Yet, Cage delivers a good performance (despite a couple of minor trips in the beginning). In the first 20 minutes, Cage is quite good playing the arrogant playboy. The he takes a dip in the first few scenes as the “family man”. As Jack searches for who he is, the viewer searches also for who the hell he’s watching. Once he’s back in his rut, he becomes funny and very watchable. Téa Leoni, who obviously gained some weight (putting her to a full 100 pounds, wow!), fills in her part very well. Although her character was ill-written at times, Leoni is not what I’d call a great actress, but she has the Julia Roberts charm thing going without the whole Julia personality. Jeremy Piven has a rather wasted role as Jack’s best friend and Don Cheadle steals every scene he’s in (all two of them).
The Family Man is not as good as any of the movies it is inspired from (except maybe Scrooged, with Bill Murray) but when compared to recent Christmas “classics” as The Santa Clause and Jingle All The Way, The Family Man comes up victorious, indeed.
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Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 9 - 12