The Family Man Review
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We've all encountered important decisions before. Life-changing decisions that choose which path we go down. And it's only natural for us to dream about what might have happened, how different our life would be, if we had taken the other path. It's a daunting thought but an interesting one. How dissimilar would our day-to-day life be? Would we want to get the chance to see the different side of life?

That's exactly what Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) gets to do. He goes on a year-long training course in London and temporarily departs from his college sweetheart Kate (Téa Leoni). Thirteen years later, he is a highly successful business tycoon on Wall Street, single and thinking he has everything. On Christmas Eve, the evening before his company enters a multi-billion dollar merger, he comes across a shop hold-up by a mysterious gunman named Cash. Jack manages to settle the ordeal, and Cash questions him about his love of money.

  
 
On Christmas morning, Jack wakes up to find he is still together with Kate, is married, and has had two children. In a panic, he comes across Cash again, who explains that he is having a 'glimpse'. Jack is being shown what his life would look like if he had returned to America from London thirteen years ago so he could be with Kate. He is no longer a wealthy businessman, but a struggling tyre salesman living in a small family house. He is shocked at his love of bowling, his taste in friends, food, drink, and choice of birthday gifts. He is disgusted at changing his son's nappies and giving his dog a walk every day. But slowly he grows to learn what life is like outside the money-driven financial world of before the 'glimpse'. The question is, which does he prefer?

Nicolas Cage gives an impressive performance as the rich businessman in a role that suits him well. Taking a break from his regular dose of guns, action, and general growling, he slips neatly into a much more suitable, 'softer' role of Campbell. Campbell is a very well written character; his heart is usually in the right place, but perhaps isn't quite going in the right direction, and Jack's misunderstanding for family social life is a major source of the movie's humour and all round belly laughs. Although you sometimes get the impression that not great amounts of effort were needed to bring across Jack's character -- Cage spends a noticeably large chunk of the film with a peculiar dazed, confused expression, as he tries to figure out how family man Jack runs his life.

The very beautiful Téa Leoni proves of her flexibility (don't get any ideas) as an actress, playing the soppy, early twenties Kate, and the housewife, mother-of-two Kate, and brings across the point that is trying to be made very well. Her confusion as her husband suddenly tries to work out where he is is both hilarious and moving, and Leoni gives some very touching performances throughout the film, as she teaches the money-minded Jack the benefits and long-term advantages of long-term commitment.

Other minor characters are integral and are significant to the shaping of the plot and piecing it together. Jack's best friend and bowling buddy, Arnie, is played convincingly by Jeremy Piven as the close mate who guides Jack the right way to go as he struggles with his decisions. And little Mackenzie Vega makes an admirable debut as Jack's daughter, Annie, who recognises more than anyone that her father is not her real one and explains his daily routine and other basics.

The music is spot on. We've got an original score from Danny Elflman, whose numerous credits include, among other film scores, the theme tune to The Simpsons. It's brilliantly poignant at times and works well with the film -- a rare something that I have found not many movies manage to catch. Elfman once again shows he is capable of very fine heights -- he can easily be compared to the likes of John Williams -- and is the perfect writer for this kind of film.

The script is refreshingly original; a unique merge together of It's a Wonderful Life with A Christmas Carol and even the odd The Truman Show element thrown in at times. It's fast and clever, and often very funny, but with a good dose of emotion and poignancy. Perhaps the explanation process is a little obvious; the script doesn't allow the plot to unfold in the cleverest of ways; but on the whole the storyline contributes to a thoroughly enjoyable movable with an undeniable 'feel-good' depth to it. It gets my recommendation.

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