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Family Man, The

"It's A Wonderful Life" in reverse as Nicolas Cage gets a glimpse of how much more meaningful his life might have been.


A look back at what might have been. It's a formula Hollywood has used lately with "Sliding Doors," "Me, Myself and I" and now "Family Man." This time its wrapped in holiday packaging as Nicolas Cage plays a high-powered investment broker who makes his team work on Christmas Eve. But when the hoodlum he condescends to help turns out to be some kind of street angel, he finds himself waking up on Christmas morning in bed with his long lost true love, two kids and a loveable dog. This is the life Jack (Cage) would have had if he had kept his promise to his fiancée. Family values combine with fish-out-of- water comic fodder as the Ferrari becomes a mini van and Jack's high-living, Manhattan taste are swapped with a suburban lifestyle.


This is a pretty corny film which is raised above Christmas confection by the winning performances of Cage and Tea Leoni. Traveling into another dimension as he did long ago in "Peggy Sue Got Married," Cage deftly returns to light-hearted romantic comic fluff. But it's Tea Leoni who is a real revelation here. At times the female lead is a thinly sketched trophied counterpart representing desirability. Leoni makes Kate a real person who is sassy and smart, wise and surefooted and a pleasure to watch. It is Kate who shows Jack that married with kids can still mean sexy, cake-in-the face fun, even while exiled in New Jersey.


Music video veteran Brett Ratner heaps on extra helpings of overbearing, do-you-feel-it? music to nudge us into a throat restricting, sentimental mood. But still he doesn't wreck this warm and wistful Yuletide flick. Sappy though the themes are, there's relief that Cage's happy home is but a figment of some black angel's enchantment and the cute-as-button kids vanish into thin air. Humor and pathos are well balanced in this likeable, but forgettable, movie.

Bottom line

Appealing clean fun that manages, in this season of rampant spending, to sell the point that money can't buy you love.