Movie Report: The Family Man (2000)

Book coverLike 300, I saw this film in the theater, but this time it has no controversy because I know I saw it with my beautiful new bride. My goodness, we went to a lot of movies in those early years BC (before children). Now that we’re getting to the AC years, I’m less interested in the offerings at the cinema and like a sad old man like to watch the films I have already seen at home because I think they’re better than what’s getting made now adays. And I’m probably correct, but I’ll leave it to Christian Toto, John Nolte, or the Critical Drinker to argue why.

At any rate, the movie starts with college sweethears Nicolas Cage and Téa Leoni at the airport. He’s going to London for a one-year-long internship with Barclays which should set him on his career path, and he vows to return to her. The story picks up thirteen years later–he did not, in fact, return to her, and has instead become a wealthy finance guy on Wall Street, and he’s keeping his team in the office over Christmas to work on a big multi-billion dollar merger. He decides to walk home on Christmas Eve and stops by a convenience store for some egg nog when he has to step in and defuse a tense situation. The street thug, played by Don Cheadle, is actually some sort of angel who, in speaking with Cage (the character’s name is Jack Campbell, but the character is the understated Cage), does not believe the businessman when Campbell (I will try to get better about using the character name instead of the actor in these movie reports) says he is not lacking anything in his life.

So Campbell wakes up on Christmas morning in a strange place: A house in New Jersey where he is married to Kate (Leoni) and they have two kids. He tries to return home, but the doorman and resident at his apartment do not know him, nor does the security man at the firm where he worked. So he tries to navigate his new environment, and he learns that in this reality, he returned from London the next day and ended up working for–and saving–his father-in-law’s tire store when the father-in-law had a heart attack. And Campbell learns the value and love in this life that he was missing.

It ends a bit abruptly and unsatisfyingly when he’s returned to his old life and contacts Kate, only to find that she is moving to Paris. But he meets her at her airport gate in a scene clearly designed to mirror the opening scene, and the ending is but perhaps an opening.

Still, it occurred to me as I watched this that this would have been the last new movie I saw in theaters with the World Trade Center in the New York skyline and where you could go to an airports gates without standing in line and presenting a ticket. World events made the movie an anachronism in less than a year.

Also, I wondered what my perspective would have been watching the film then. I was a newlywed, and I did not sacrifice anything when I married–if anything, it was during my courtship of my wife that I moved from being a printer to being a professional in IT. The film takes place thirteen years after the initial parting of the protagonists. I’ve been at Nogglestead longer than that, and in rewatching the film after having children (not in the plans in 2000) who are almost grown up now. And I look back to see if I made sacrifices. Did I? Would I have been so different had I not married my wife now? I know a couple of people who have not married and climbed various ladders. Would I want to trade places with them? No.

So I guess that’s a nice reminder.

With re-watching this film, I have rather covered a lot of Téa Leoni’s oeuvre in the last year or two (see also Bad Boys, Spanglish, Fun with Dick and Jane). Combined with Deep Impact and A League of Their Own which I saw in the theaters, that’s her major movies.

I’ve also seen most of Lisa Thornhill’s major movies as well. Which is a tacit admission that I have not yet seen Time Cop.

She has had an active career in television and B-movies. This might have been her biggest film.

To be honest, I confused her with Amy Yasbeck, who was the redhead in Problem Child and The Mask. Also, I am older now and more easily confused.

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