Imagine a newborn taking in that first gasp of air, his terrified eyes trying to absorb the glare of the delivery room floodlights. In "The Weather Man," that is precisely the expression in Dave Spritz's eyes at any moment, whether he's calling the weather for a Chicago news station or trying to make sense of his disastrous personal life. He may be an adult in the physiological sense, but, existentially speaking, this guy's in diapers.
Delivering the forecast in the Windy City means a lot of high-spirited patter about the degrees of misery Chicagoans can expect each day. Dave (Nicolas Cage) may sound authoritative on the air, but he doesn't know the first thing about meteorology. His value as a celebrity is brought into stark relief on the street. Everybody, it seems, either wants to pester him for predictions or simply toss fast food projectiles at him -- Big Gulps, Wendy's patties, tacos. Then there are his relationships with his recently divorced wife, Noreen (Hope Davis), and two teenage children -- all in dire need of intervention -- to round off his failings. Should Dave leave all this for a promising job as a weatherman in New York or stay and put right his family issues?
"The Weather Man," directed by Gore Verbinski ("Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl") and written by Steven Conrad, shines the light on a special kind of heroism -- the guts to face up to yourself and make changes. What makes this so emotionally compelling is the way Dave scrambles from this deep vale of cluelessness to something approaching moral maturity.
-- Desson Thomson