Family Man

on December 22, 2000 by Christine James
   A musing on the pivotal forks in the road of life (following the now well-worn path of road-less-traveled films like "Sliding Doors," "Run Lola Run" and "Me Myself I"), this what-iffer focuses on Jack Campbell, a mega-successful, self-absorbed investment broker (Nicolas Cage) who has everything he wants in life--or does he?

   A chance encounter with a presumably angelic entity (Don Cheadle) whose task is to take human form and test people's strength of character zaps Jack into the life he would have lived had he foregone his career ambitions and married his college sweetheart, Kate (Tea Leoni). Jack tries to ditch the nightmare to which he has awoken, on Christmas Day, no less, only to find that his previous persona no longer exists: None of his coworkers recognize him and his building doorman throws him out on his ear. With nowhere else to go, he reluctantly returns "home," only to get an earful from his parallel-universe spouse.

   The two-kids-and-a-dog package is anathema to Jack, who longs for his flashy car and designer suits but, finding himself a tire salesman and not a Wall Street hotshot, is instead stuck with a minivan and a Men's Wearhouse budget. Even his sexy, sprightly wife doesn't tip the scales in favor of suburban life, as her emotional needs clash with his id-driven, selfish inclinations. Frustrated, confused and resentful (after a beleaguering family trip to the mall, he exasperatedly concedes, "We'll get a funnel cake. It'll be the highlight of my week"), he's ready to blow it all on an affair with a this-side-of-desperate silicon-enhanced neighborhood housewife when, darn the luck, his two-sizes-too-small heart begins to grow.

   A paean to mundanity, this romantic drama is out to demonstrate that it's the little things in life that count. But when Jack wants to have it all and takes action to get back on top of his game career-wise ("I'm going into arbitrage, honey--turns out I have a knack for it"), the little woman squelches his aspirations by whining about having to move their precious poppets into the city. Apparently, being a "family man" demands nothing less than martyrdom.

   This film has enough moments of veracity and humor to keep it entertaining but it's difficult to find resonance or inspiration when singledom is equated with unbridled hedonism and settling down means just plain settling. Starring Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Jeremy Piven and Don Cheadle. Directed by Brett Ratner. Written by David Diamond and David Weissman. Produced by Marc Abraham, Tony Ludwig, Alan Riche and Howard Rosenman. A Universal release. Romance/Drama. Rated PG-13 for sensuality and some language. Running time: 126 min

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