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The Family Man

Although the performances in The Family Man are strong, it fails to engender any real emotion and instead merely echoes better films like It's A Wonderful Life and Me Myself I. This is the quintessential 'second chance' film, where the protagonist gets a chance to see what life could be like and realizes that things could be better. The warm fuzzy feeling the filmmakers want the audience to feel in their stomachs never quite fully materializes here. This time, Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage, Gone in 60 Seconds, Bringing Out the Dead), a high-powered Wall Street businessman who left his girlfriend at the airport over a decade ago. Kate Reynolds (Tea Leoni, Flirting with Disaster, Deep Impact) had a horrible feeling that if he left for London for a prestigious internship, they would never meet again.

They didn't, and a call out of the blue from Kate elicits no measurable response from Jack. Jack is all about working hard and valuing work over any personal life. He in fact has none. Later that night, he performs an altruistic act at a convenience store hold up. Cash (Don Cheadle, Traffic, Mission to Mars) takes notice. The next morning, Jack wakes up and finds himself next to Kate and two small children in a small suburban house in New Jersey. Cash explains that this is a 'glimpse' of may have been, and it is up to Jack to figure out the rest. Jack slowly learns that in this life, he married Kate. Their life drastically changed. She is a pro bono lawyer and he works in a tire store. Instead of Jack's life of luxury, Jack and Kate live paycheck to paycheck.

Of course this new life is better, and Jack slowly learns this. The problem is that it is far better. Writers David Diamond and David Weissman (The Whiz Kid, Evolution) make things too easy for Jack. They also fail to answer some essential questions. In his new life, he is predictably disoriented, and asks Kate all sorts of questions and makes strange comments. The story lets this go by saying that Jack always acts this way. Jack's daughter quickly knows he is somebody different, and Jack claims to be an alien. It also does not make any sense why Jack and Kate never spoke again after he left. The movie clearly states that they were close to marriage. Their explanation for his job as a tire salesman also feels like a cop out. Jack will clearly realize this new life is better. Instead of lots of money and an empty career, he now has a loving family and a fulfilling life. Then, he needs to go back. Any sort of conclusion will not be satisfactory, and the one here is not.

Still, this is a nicely made film. Cage and Leoni have a nice chemistry together. The best thing about The Family Man is their interaction. It is nice to see Cage in a role where his character a psycho or an action here. Jack is a normal person, getting even more normal as the movie progresses. Leoni also shines as the perfect wife. She is beautiful, has wonderful children, a charity job, and loves Jack. Cheadle has an interesting character, but he is on screen so little, and exploring the character will also compromise the magical nature of the film. Director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Money Talks) tries to pull out all the stops in tugging heartstrings. Some of his attempts are a little too blatant, but this does not veer far from the formulaic nature of the picture. Ironically, watching The Family Man feels like a glimpse of a better made movie. When this it ends, everybody has the option of going to the video store and making the choice to rent any of the number of similar movies.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
2 hours, 5 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some language.

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