Family Man

179 ratings (175 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
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One more review, with feeling...

Feb 2, 2002
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:On-screen chemistry between Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni. A credible ' what-if? ' script.

Cons:Often mis-interpreted as an 'anti-money', 'anti-single' 'Christmas' movie. Silly ending.

The Bottom Line: Watch this film. But be prepared for an ending that throws a wet, incongruous blanket over much of the warmth of the film.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

After 14 months and 140-plus reviews here at Epinions, perhaps the last thing "The Family Man" needs is another review. But the basic premise of the film has hooked my imagination. And the arguments that I see others use to support or deride this film force me to add my belated two (or three) cents.

This is the 140th-plus review of this film. If you demand full plot lines and character descriptions and motivational insights to rate highly then please hit the 'back' button. You may find these details by reading any of the other highly-rated reviews available here at Epinions.

I will provide the briefest of plot synopsis for those challenged by leaving and finding their way back...

Jack Campbell portrayed by Nicholas Cage.
Kate Campbell portrayed by Tea Leoni.

Boy leaves girl.
Boy forgets girl.
Boy becomes ultra-successful man.
Man is chosen to 'glimpse' how his life has changed
...when he did not forget girl.
Man hates 'new' life...:-(
Man tolerates 'new' life...:-|
Man loves 'new' life...:-)
Man is yanked back to 'real' life.
Man seeks girl in real life.
Man and girl re-unite.

Welcome back, if you left to read other reviews.
Or the 'lite' version above. Lets now continue.

I intend to add several insights relative to elements of the film that I feel received short shrift from--or were simply interpreted wrongly by, in my humble opinion--other reviewers.

Point No. 1.
This is NOT a 'Christmas' film !

While it is Christmas time in the film, this fact is NOT relative to the motivations of any of the characters. No attitudes are expressed or reversed relative to the holiday. The film could have as easily been centered around the Fourth of July and would have worked as well as this 'Christmas' version. Despite its original release date in December of 2000, it is not a 'Christmas' film.

Point No. 2.
This film is NOT a 'pro-marriage' / 'anti-single' movie !

Several reviews sought to label the transformation of Jack Campbell from highly successful 'Wall Street god' (WSG) to 'married man schmuck' (MMS) as being pro-marriage, pro-family and anti-single. Nonsense. Jack is comfortable and happy in his original 'WSG' mode. He suffers neither pangs about the loss of companionship or progeny nor forlorn thoughts of what 'might have been'. He does not need, seek or want to be freed from his existence.

But once he is placed in this new 'MMS' environment and feels and reacts to the trust and love that others have invested in this Jack Campbell, he recognizes the intrinsic value of their investment in him. The value of being chosen by another as the most important person of their life. As his wife says, "I choose us!" As his daughter says "I knew you would come back!"

Point No. 3.
This is NOT an 'anti-wealth' movie.

Some would interpret this movie as a moral statement that the super-rich can not be happy. Not as happy as the working-class 'MMS' can be, must be. Nonsense. Jack is happy as the 'WSG'. Women, expensive suits, fast cars, a job he loves. As he states, he has everything he wants, everything he needs. Indeed he does. And as he acclimates to his new 'MMS' life, he schemes to climb that corporate ladder again, to secure those riches once again, this time not just for himself but for his family.

This scheme is struck down by his wife who does not want to remove her children from the house, the school, the neighborhood that defines their world. She does not want to remove her husband and herself from the only home they have known, the home that she dreams of growing old in, with her graying husband by her side. But ultimately she is willing to sacrifice all that for Jack, if that is what he really needs and wants for himself and their family.

Point No. 4.
This film is NOT a copy, a re-make, a re-telling, a rip-off of the classic film "It's A Wonderful Life".
Point No. 5.
This film is NOT a copy, a re-make, a re-telling, a rip-off of the classic film "A Christmas Carol".

Lets consider points 4 and 5 together.

The temporal and physical settings of this film are completely different from the other two. Jack is not Scrooge. This is not a film about a man reviewing his life, past, present and future. Jack is not George Bailey. This is not a film about a man living for one day in an altered world full of bile, greed and broken souls. This is a film about a man living day after day after day in a loving environment that slowly changes his soul. Jack Campbell's reaction to this environment and the people that surround him make this a unique film story unto itself.

And now for a point others make that I actually agree with !

Variant point No. 6
The ending of this film is AWFUL. And I will definitely add a 'spoiler' here, so turn away if you do not want to read it...

WHY would this girl--a grown, successful, competent, apparently intelligent woman who has moved on--stop to listen to this raving lunatic at the airport gate, let alone stay and listen to him?!?! Anyone but this woman would have alerted airport security to the presence of this madman and moved on with her life. And to stay and have ludicrous!! It as if the writers needed to close the movie somehow, anyhow, and chose this lame ending as the best warm, touchy, feel-good one possible.

What about the 'real' wife that this woman is in Jack's other life?? What about the kids that he has apparently grown to love in his other life?? Does he really believe that he can re-create those 13 years from scratch, here, in his present life?? Arrgghhhh.

I am so angry with this ending! To be honest, I don't know how any other alternate ending could have been made to work. But the one chosen simply stinks. It leaves me feeling cheated of the time and emotion that I have invested in this film.

Summing it all up...

I highly recommend this film. It is a beautiful rendering of the process of finding and accepting the love of others, a love neither needed nor wanted but eventually welcome none the less, that becomes the heart and soul of a life unlived. And to realize that this life offers as much as the life given up. Not better. Not worse. But equal. Even a nonsense ending could not rob me of that realization.

Recommend this product? Yes

Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Good Date Movie
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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