Directed by Brett Ratner, starring Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni, Don Cheadle.
Take successful vintage Christmas movie, place in modern setting (radical!), and adjust chronology enough to eschew accusations of predictability, season with pinch of schmaltz and a handful of cute kids and serve - should satisfy a large sector of Christmas movie-going public. It's easy to be cynical about a film like The Family Man. The plot is far from innovative and its use of adorable kids to fill the Christmas cuteness quotient - big brown doe-eyes, inability to pronounce their ‘r’s, bless ‘em - is so blatant it's almost insulting, but somehow it works.
Taking It's a Wonderful Life and reversing its time line, The Family Man stars Nicolas Cage as Jack Campbell, CEO of a successful Wall Street firm who, after a chance encounter with an angel, is given the opportunity to discover how his life would have been had he chosen love over his career. Living the American Dream on Christmas Eve - great earner, Manhattan penthouse, Ferrari, casual sex - he awakes on Christmas morning to find himself living the American Reality - suburban home, mini-van, wife (played by Tea Leoni – still looking pretty dreamy), 2.4 children, and a soul-destroying blue-collar job. Horrified by the drudgery of his new life, Campbell stumbles through the rest of the film with a hilarious mix of awkwardness and bewilderment. But contrary to his newly acquired family’s and friends’ assumption that he is suffering a mid-life crisis, he is, in fact, learning a valuable lesson about the nature of success and true happiness.
Didactic and predictable but charming with it, if you can manage to shelve your cynicism, The Family Man will have you rooting for that happy ending fix.