Also recommended

From December 2000
Film Review

Meet the Parents (Film of the Month)
• other December releases

Film Review Hotline
4 Stars- Recommended

The relationship wasn't
working out...

STARS: Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni,
Jeremy Priven, Don Cheadle

DIRECTOR: Brett Ratner
SCREENPLAY: David Diamond and David Weissman
CERTIFICATE: 12 TBCDISTRIBUTOR and Picture copyright: Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 2hrs 05 mins TBC
OPENING DATE (UK): December 22

It's a Wonderful Wife?

It's a commonly held fantasy: what would your life be like if you'd made some different choices on the way?

In Family Man, Nic Cage's Jack Campbell gets to find out. Thirteen years ago, he went to London to embark upon a career in banking, leaving his girlfriend at the airport. Now he's the richest man in his exclusive New York apartment block, with a string of attractive lovers and a lifestyle that most of us can only dream of. He wants for nothing. Or so he thinks.

On Christmas Eve he gets involved in a dime-store hold-up, and wakes up the next morning to find himself living in New Jersey, married with two children and working as a tyre salesman. If that sounds like a non sequitur to you, just put yourself in his shoes. Naturally, urban sophisticate Jack finds this all a little difficult to deal with, and his new-found 'friends' - not to mention his wife - are increasingly concerned at his bizarre behaviour. Only his six-year-old daughter suspects the truth, or something like it.

Fans of It's a Wonderful Life may look at Family Man aghast. It's essentially the same premise, only the other way round - Cage is shown a world which, despite his initial horror, he gradually learns has a great deal to offer him. It's thanks to the acting that Family Man gets away with this blatant rip-off. Cage offers the performance of his career, making Campbell a far more subtle character than the black-and-white cipher he might well have become in the hands of a lesser artist.

Those who have found him somewhat two-note in the past (gangly oaf or dribbling psychotic), will be surprised by the ease with which he credibly portrays a man out of his depth undergoing a fundamental personality change. Téa Leoni also shines, making you wonder why the idiot left her at the airport in the first place. The standout discovery, though, is Makenzie Vega as his daughter, whose concern at her pseudo-father's plight manages to be heartfelt without cloying; for once, we have a Hollywood cute kid who doesn't have you reaching for the sick-bag.

The final scene is, almost inevitably, a woeful let-down. Even here, however, the film is brave enough not to go so far as to be a total cop-out. It might be a touch over-long, but if you're looking for a Christmas film with a difference, this could be just up your street.

Ben Woodhams

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Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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Also reviewed online this month:
4 Stars; Recommended
MEET THE PARENTS (FILM OF THE MONTH) • released December 15


5 Stars; Excellent
The Apartment • Dec 15

4 Stars; Recommended
Cecil B Demented • Dec 8

4 Stars; Recommended
Dec 1 • La Fidelité
Dec 1 • Small Time Crooks
Dec 8 • The Man Who Cried Dec 8 • The Escort