[box cover]

The Family Man: Collector's Edition

The Family Man owes most of its appeal to its casting. Without Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni in the lead roles, the film would most likely have lost whatever charm and entertainment value it has and just been a weepy, mildly funny tribute to the Frank Capra's feel-good flicks. As it is, The Family Man is more than a little like Capra's classic Christmas story It's a Wonderful Life (with a little bit of Scrooged mixed in for good measure). But Cage's Jack Campbell gives Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey a turn-of-the-century twist. Rather than a sad sack at the end of his rope, Jack is a Wall Street tycoon, a filthy rich bachelor who closes multibillion dollar deals and lives in a penthouse apartment, where he enjoys a closetful of Armani suits, priceless works of art, and a parade of beautiful blond lovers. Jack likes his life. But on Christmas Eve, after a late night at the office and an out-of-the-blue call from Kate (Leoni), the college girlfriend he left behind 13 years ago, he meets Cash (Don Cheadle), an enigmatic stranger. Before you can say "Clarence," Jack wakes up the next morning in an alternate reality — one in which he's a tire salesman who married Kate, moved to Jersey, and had two kids. As Jack navigates this strange new world of dirty diapers, minivans, and bowling leagues, he (surprise!) begins to see what he was missing in his old life — and realize that he doesn't want to give it up. There's plenty of mushy, holiday movie-style drama in The Family Man, mostly centered on Jack's growing love for Kate and the kids (especially impossibly cute Makenzie Vega as the suspicious Annie), but it's got some good laughs, too, which is where the cast's quality really comes into play. No one does angry, frustrated sarcasm better than Cage, and he gets a good sparring partner in Jeremy Piven, who plays suburban-Jack's best friend, Arnie. But it's Leoni who makes Jack's dilemma believable. She positively glows in this movie — she's Hollywood beautiful, but she's so warmly funny, down-to-earth, and real that you can (almost) buy the fact that she's a mother of two tucked away in New Jersey. In fact, she sells it so well that getting a glimpse of the alternate Kate in Family Man's final scenes makes the ending particularly jarring. The movie should have followed in Capra's footsteps and finished, if not with bells ringing and angels getting their wings, at least without an ending that didn't wreck the illusion of "what might have been." The film makes a nice debut on DVD from Universal with a sharp anamorphic transfer (2.35:1), and the alternate DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio does Danny Elfman's score proud. As one of Universal's "Collector's Edition" releases, the disc is stuffed with supplemental features: three separate commentary tracks (one by director Brett Ratner and writers David Diamond and David Weissman, one by producer Marc Abraham, and one by Elfman that accompanies an isolated score), a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, nine deleted scenes, six outtake bits, a quick montage of clips of people saying hello to Jack, a video for Seal's "This Could Be Heaven," a less-than-great interactive multiple-choice game called "Choose Your Fate," text production notes, cast and filmmaker bios, recommendations for other Universal films on DVD, and a link to a section of DVD-ROM features (games, screen savers, wallpapers, etc.). Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page