Welcome to the penultimate Un”Cage”d Christmas selection. For the past three Fridays, you’ve seen Cage (and his hair) in many forms; crazy, considerate and country. This week serves up a heapin’ helpin’ of a career-driven Cage, and yes, the alliteration is getting a bit strained.
It’s the morning of Christmas Eve and Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) meets the day with zeal. He’s belting out opera in his briefs as he picks out which $2000 suit he’ll be wearing to work. Jack should be happy because he’s the President of P.K. Lassiter Investment House and he’s about to earn the company billions. And to think, all this is because 13 years ago he went off to an internship in London instead of staying with the love of his life, Kate (Téa Leoni).
Then a hankering for eggnog puts Jack at the wrong end of a gun. Jack strikes a deal with the thug, Cash (Don Cheadle), for what he thinks is a bum lottery ticket, except he awakes on Christmas to find he’s a tire salesman living in Jersey with Kate, their two kids, and a dog that takes monstrous craps. After attempting to regain his real life, Cash returns to explain that he’s been given “a glimpse” and that it’s up to him to decide what to do with it. Let life in suburbia begin.
What really grabs you in The Family Man is the chemistry between Cage’s Jack and Leoni’s Kate. Whether they’re defending their love at the airport or during their daily rut, you totally get that these two unequivocally belong together. Separately, Cage nails the snooty attitude with which Jack approaches his new-found, modest lifestyle. Leoni gets her moments to shine as the loving, frustrated wife, and I won’t soon forget her gyrating shower silhouette.
They are supported by a number of one-note characters. Jeremy Piven plays best bud to Jack in the glimpse, providing much needed guidance in the ways of married life. The late Harve Presnell makes a brief appearance as tire king and father-in-law, Big Ed. Jack and Kate’s daughter, Annie (Makenzie Vega), has that annoying, cutesy Elmer Fudd speech, which you hear a lot as she instructs Jack how to fit in. The worst of these superficial characters is Cheadle’s Cash, a stereotype Spike Lee would refer to as the Magical Negro. He first appears as an angry, gun-toting thug, but reveals himself to have some sort of mystical powers to help Jack reflect on the path not taken. Don’t get it twisted, Cheadle’s performance is solid even if the role is beneath him.
While I dig the romantic sentiment of The Family Man, the film is lacking. Aside from the Cash and Annie stereotypes, the pacing is sluggish. The story meanders through both the reality-based and glimpse-based tales, squandering minutes on unnecessary details like a randy neighbor. The shot list is rife with close-ups and the dialogue is verbose. While I appreciate the plot’s final resolution, Cage’s monologue, essentially a re-telling of the entire story, goes on for, like, ever!
The Family Man has been compared to an updated version of It’s a Wonderful Life. Much like George Bailey, Jack’s glimpse gives him a chance to see what could have been and make changes for the better. Maybe director Brett Ratner needed his own Cash to swoop into the editing room to help him craft a wonderful film.