The Family Man

2000, Movie, PG-13, 125 mins


This high-concept bid to be the new IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a surprisingly charming fable about a Wall Street shark who gets an eye-opening glimpse of the road not taken. Back in the go-go '80s, Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) made a pivotal decision: Ignoring the pleas of college sweetheart Kate (Tea Leoni), he pursued a London-based internship that set him on the road to master-of-the-universe-dom. Jack's career flourished. His relationship with Kate withered. Now fabulously wealthy and surrounded by the perks of success — expensive cars, clothes and women — Jack is apparently untroubled by the prospect of spending Christmas Eve drinking eggnog alone, and Christmas Day wooing a powerful business contact halfway across the country. When he gets a message Kate has called, he throws it away — who wants to reminisce with old girlfriends when there are mega-mergers to be brokered? Then Jack is touched by an angel (Don Cheadle) in disguise, and gets a look at the way things might have been. He falls asleep in his swank Manhattan penthouse, and wakes up a suburban New Jersey dad, married to Kate and the father of baby Josh and precocious Annie (Makenzie Vega), the only person who sees right through him. A practical child, she decides her real dad's been kidnapped by aliens and this ersatz paterfamilias will do until he returns. It goes without saying that Jack will eventually realize that domestic harmony and real friends are worth more than the glittering baubles money can buy. But he takes his sweet time getting over the Ferrari and the power suits, which is one of the many things this movie does right. Casting Leoni as Kate is another; even swaddled in a soccer-mom's wardrobe, she's charismatic enough to make you think growing old with her is a real alternative to life in the fast lane. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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