Review: The Family Man (2000 movie)

Circa 1987 Nicolas Cage said goodbye to his tearful girlfriend Téa Leoni to fly to London for a job with Barclay’s Bank, reassuring her he’d be back. Thirteen years later he’s a rich Wall Street executive who never saw her again. He lives alone and dates hot women who like his money, and he’s mean enough that on Christmas Eve he orders people to attend a meeting the next day.

But he’s not really a bad guy. When he stops in a store later that night and sees an armed confrontation between the store owner and a man (Don Cheadle) trying to cash a lottery ticket the owner insists is fake, Cage bravely intervenes to defuse the situation and even tries to talk Cheadle into turning his life around, which Cheadle finds amusing, given what he knows is about to happen to Cage. (Exactly who and what Cheadle is we never find out, but he might be trying to earn his wings.)

Christmas morning Cage is shocked to wake up not in his luxury Manhattan apartment but a house in New Jersey that he apparently shares with Téa Leoni, their two kids, and a dog. In a baffled panic he commandeers the family minivan and drives it to Manhattan, only to discover that his old life has vanished. The only person who recognizes him is Don Cheadle, who declines to explain anything but seems to be having a good time. It probably helps that he’s now driving the Ferrari that used to belong to Cage.

(In fact, the Ferrari in question actually did formerly to belong to Nicolas Cage the actor, not just the character. Cage has driven his own car in more than one film. The weird but snazzy classic car he has in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010) was his as well.)

With nowhere else to go, Cage heads back to New Jersey and tries to fit into his alternate life. Presumably because he’s afraid of being thought crazy he says nothing about what happened. His precocious little daughter realizes something odd is going on and decides he’s an alien temporarily taking her father’s place, but as long as he promises not to do anything horrible to her or her baby brother she’s willing to help him out and even formally welcomes him to Earth.

At this point things become reasonably predictable as he realizes that for all its horrors (he works for his father-in-law as a tire salesman) this life isn’t so bad. Téa Leoni is even more appealing than he remembered, and he quickly learns to care for her and his children. Of course, it’s unlikely much that much of this would surprise anybody.

But it still proves to be a likable romantic comedy fantasy, not flawless but worth seeing if you’re in the mood for that sort of thing. I liked it, anyway.


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