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Movie Reviews

Family Man  

Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage)
Kate (Tea Leoni)
Cash (Don Cheadle)
Arnie (Jeremy Piven)

Directed by Brett Ratner Written by David Diamond and David Weissman
Rated PG-13 for language and some sensuality
Running Time: 125 minutes Distributed by Universal

The Family Man is a jolly holiday film about fate. The film opens with Jack Campbell (Cage), a young law student in an airport with his girlfriend Kate (Leoni). Jack has won an internship in London and is ready for departure from New York. Kate, however, asks him not to leave even though the internship will be only for a year. Jack unwillingly decides to leave Kate for London. The story then jumps ahead thirteen years in New York. Jack Campbell is a successful, cocky and single businessman for a huge corporation. On Christmas Eve, Jack receives a message from Kate at his office. He questions the message and then throws it away saying, “It was thirteen years ago.” The next morning, Jack wakes up in a glimpse of how his life would have been if he would not left Kate. He and Kate are married, middle class, have two children and live in New Jersey instead of New York. Freaked out of his mind at first of what is happening to him, Jack comes to realize that the glimpse is totally opposite of his chosen life. He begins searching for answers of if he is dreaming, insane or will it end and does he want it to end.

The Family Man is a beneficial film to be released during this time of year. Loved ones are together and Christmas is all around, the whole family should see this delightful holiday drama that is also funny at times.

Screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman’s story is a mix between two other holiday films, Scrooged and It’s a Wonderful Life. The script is enjoyably told through the main character of Jack Campbell. The only real complaint I had about the story outline is its dissolving of the characters. Diamond and Weissman introduce many colorful supporting characters beside Jack and Kate in this film. However, the most likeable characters end up just falling out of the story. An example is Jack’s bowling buddy Arnie (Piven). Arnie is introduced in Jack’s glimpse as his best friend and helps Jack calm down after waking up in a different life. Right from his first few lines, Arnie is fresh character played by the humorous Jeremy Piven. Through the next two hours of the film, Arnie only shows up in a total of three scenes. In which, all of his scenes are important, but I was wanting to see more of his interaction and relationship with Jack. Also, the ending of the film left me questioning some decisions by the writers and director. Right when I walked out of the cinema, I didn’t care for the ending of this film. I thought that it was a down sizing cliché. However, the longer I thought about the whole storyline of the film, I enjoyed the ending more and more. The storyline is really about the choices we make to layer our lives to where sometimes we are missing important pieces to the puzzle of living.

Brett Ratner does a sensible job of directing this dramatic family film. This is Ratner’s the best directorial work of his career thus far. His previous credits include the comedies Money Talks and Rush Hour. I learned that this wasn’t the type of film that Ratner was looking to direct after his success with Rush Hour. The director somehow got a hold of the script and cried reading many pages of it, so he immediately decided to be assigned to the project. There are some directors and produces that only stick with one genre. In which Ratner’s was comedy, but he read a dramatic script and he loved it. It shows maturity in his range and decision making for the young filmmaker to take on a film like this one. His direction in The Family Man is mostly simple; he lets for the most part, the story tell itself. Ratner also does develop some cool angular shots of Jack in the snow.

Nicolas Cage goes back to drama and comedy, which is where he shines best. Cage develops one of those characters that you dislike first, but you then love after he has grown on you. He needs stick with material like this and give his action roles a rest. Tea Leoni delivers the best acting I have ever seen her do as the loveable Kate. Don Cheadle has a lot of fun with his tiny but crucial role in the film as Cash, who explains the glimpse to Jack. As I said before, Jeremy Piven turns in another humorous performance as Jack’s buddy, Arnie.

The Family Man is overall a pleasant holiday film that audiences will love. In a couple of years, I can see this film being played on NBC on Christmas Eve night.

Report Card Grade: B

Beastman’s Movie Reviews
Copyright, 2000 Joseph C. Tucker

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