The Family Sham
By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 22, 2000
"The Family Man" is nothing more, or less, than a cheap, dirty grab at our Christmas spirit, accompanied by those movie ads full of accolades from critical pinheads.
Nicolas Cage gets touched by angel Don Cheadle in "The Family Man."
"A New Christmas Classic Is Born!" trumpets Jan Wolf of NBC-TV.
"Touching, soulful and hilarious!" exclaims Mark S. Allen of UPN-TV.
Puh-leez. While "Family Man" isn't "Battlefield Earth," it certainly isn't
"It's a Wonderful Life," the Hollywood classic that this Universal Pictures
release desperately tries to imitate. In "Family Man," James Stewart, I mean,
Nicolas Cage plays Jack Campbell, an investment banker who rules Wall Street
like a ninja. He even works on Christmas Eve to make more money. And although
he has no family to speak of, he does have this expensive little hooker in
mind for his Christmas cheer.
"You're a credit to capitalism," coos one of his admiring associates.
Everyone, arrange yourselves into carol-singing formations, stand outside
Jack's impossibly expensive Manhattan apartment and hiss. Now you're getting
When we first meet Jack, 13 years before this, we see the critical
crossroads in his life that led him here. Heading to London on a promising
banking internship, he's at the airport, saying goodbye to his sweetheart,
Kate (Tea Leoni and not Helen Hunt). She wants him to stay. She has this
feeling they'll never get back together again. But he goes, just the same.
Kate was right. Here he is, all these years later, making money all over
the place. Kate's a distant memory. In fact, when she calls out of the blue,
he blows her off.
Time for a Hollywood intervention.
The predictable angel (Don Cheadle) gives Jack one of those extended
second chances, a whole lifetime with Kate the one he could have had, if only
they'd stuck together. Jack wakes up in a different world: a New Jersey
suburb where he sells tires and lives with two screaming kids and the lovely
Kate for a wife.
"Where's my Ferrari?" asks Jack, trying to run away.
Touching, soulful, hilarious!
Will Jack learn to love bad clothes and bowling nights with his true pals
(including Jeremy Piven)? When will he wake up, walk the dog and learn to
smell Mr. Coffee? Oh boy, we've got so much to endure and the movie's barely
Director Brett Ratner, who made "Rush Hour," doesn't do more than steer
this conventional soul-cleansing from beginning to end. Cage is left to do
his damndest to entertain us through the tedium. He's the only thing on
display, and it's not enough to appreciate his uncanny resemblance to
Stewart, his obvious hair weave and his ability to come up with an
unexpectedly funny expression or two. If I were his angel, I'd lean close to
his ear and sweetly whisper: "Why not make it easier on yourself, Nic? Don't
seek a better life, seek a better movie."
"The Family Man" (PG-13, 125 minutes) Contains sexual situations, strong
language and a nude stunt-babe in the shower.