Holiday Movie Month: "The Family Man" Review

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

Holiday Movie Month: "The Family Man" Review

Rating: PG-13 (sensuality, some language)
Length: 125 minutes
Release Date: December 22, 2000
Directed by: Brett Ratner
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Nicolas Cage stars as Jack Campbell in the 2000 drama "The Family Man." Jack is a young and successful multimillionaire who has his own private jet and the pick of any woman he wants, with one notable exception. Years ago, Jack left behind the only love of his life, Kate Reynolds, to pursue a major career opportunity. Although he gained all the material success he desired, Jack finds his life decidedly lacking. When he runs into a mugger while out shopping during the holiday season, his entire life is turned upside down. In a modern twist on "It's a Wonderful Life," Jack wakes up to find himself in a parallel reality where he married Kate and turned down the opportunity to advance his career.

At first, Jack is bewildered and horrified to find no traces of his luxurious life. He tries to find a way back to all the material successes he earned over the years, but he begins to reconsider his desire to go back so soon. Brushing it off as a strangely intense dream or fantasy, Jack decides to indulge the people in his new life and find out what it's like to be a family man. Although he starts out convinced he'll be able to assuage his doubts about the life he chose, Jack begins to fall even more in love with Kate and the life they've built together in this other world. He realizes that even in this life he has taken Kate for granted and vows to devote the rest of his life to appreciating the simple things. An unexpected twist leads him to fight for the reality he was so eagerly trying to escape at first, and there is no way to see the end coming.

"The Family Man" is a compelling family drama with strong holiday-related themes and plenty of intrigue. The plot twists are truly original, although the film's framework borrows largely from the plot of "It's a Wonderful Life." The classic film has inspired countless works, but "The Family Man" is perhaps the best movie to capture its spirit. Jack is a relatable protagonist in spite of his flaws, and viewers will be invested in his story the whole way through. The concept of another reality leaves audiences to wonder whether Jack really is dreaming or if he received a holiday miracle that led him into a world where his life turned out as it was always meant to be.

"The Family Man" marks one of Nicolas Cage's best performances, and he fills the role of Nick Campbell perfectly. Nick may be stubborn, but he clearly has a good heart underneath it all. Even when he is wrapped up in things that don't really matter, he still shows a willingness to help others and harbors feelings for Kate even many years later. His character progression through the film is subtle yet profound, resulting in intense character development with a satisfying conclusion.

The atmosphere is one of the best elements of this film, with well-panned shots featuring the beautiful streets of New York City during the holiday season. Nick's world of luxury and wealth at the beginning of the movie is a stark contrast to the small and understated slice of suburban bliss he inhabits in the other reality. Although "The Family Man" is a drama, it offers plenty of balance with humorous moments that result from Nick trying to adjust to a far more modest life. In one notable scene, he insists on using the family's paltry savings to buy an extremely expensive business suit. Kate objects at first, but ultimately decides to purchase another suit for him as a gift. Nick is startled by the act of kindness and begins to feel guilt for putting his needs above his family's, marking the start of his transition into a true family man.

"The Family Man" is a heartfelt drama with enough comedic moments to keep things light and interesting. This film is the perfect addition to any holiday collection, featuring strong morals and dynamic characters who progress naturally over the course of the movie. The writing is solid, and the acting is relatable and believable. Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni are a fabulous leading pair, and their romance across time and realities is one of the most unique relationships to hit the big screen. "The Family Man" is true to its name, providing a lovable and seasonal movie the whole family will enjoy even more than a decade after its debut.

Rating: 3 out of 5