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The Family Man...
Does Not Enjoy A Wonderful Life

What if...

You made different choices?
You said yes instead of no?
You got a second chance? 

If you're looking for "It's a Wonderful Life" or some sort of new twist on the classic "A Christmas Carol," look elsewhere. "The Family Man" is on the other side of sappy chick flick.  

Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage, "Face/Off," "Leaving Las Vegas") promises his law school-bound girlfriend Kate he'll be back in a year. She pleads with him to ditch his internship and his dreams to stay with her in the States. (Note to self: never believe anyone promising something at an airport.) 

Flash forward to Christmas Eve 13 years later. Jack is CEO of a powerful Wall Street arbitrage firm and working on a mega-merger late into the New York night. Of course, Jack plays Scrooge to the rest of the firm's team, planning a 10AM meeting on Christmas to work out the deal. It is when Jack crosses paths with streetwise Cash (Don Cheadle of "Boogie Nights," "Rosewood" fame)  at a convenience store on his way home that the script goes awry--or at least into the land of predictability. 

Cash argues with the stereotypical Asian storeowner over a lottery ticket to the point of pulling a gun. Jack decides to diffuse the hairy situation by "buying" the lottery ticket. At this point, he delivers his fatal line, "I have everything I've ever wanted." Cash responds, "Are you kidding me? Just remember, you brought this on yourself." 

How, might you ask, does "Clarence" earn his wings? Jack has to learn that he doesn't, in fact, have everything--presumably a family life. Out with the Ferrari, in with the minivan.

That night Jack falls asleep in this penthouse only to wake up next to Kate (Tea Leoni, star of "Deep Impact" and "Flirting With Disaster," who steals this one). After several "Ground Hog Day"-esque suburban Jersey scenes, he finds out what his life would have been like had he answered Kate differently at the airport 13 years earlier. The sap is not complete until he learns that, along with two wonderful kids and a mini-van, he saved his father-in-law's tire business. What a hero!

After several predictable "how-do-you-change-a-diaper" scenes,  Jack eventually -- go

Tea Leoni and Nicholas Cage star in the Universal Pictures release
The Family Man

figure -- falls in love with his alternate life. Ding-Ding--"Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings."

Cash transports Jack back to his "real" life in fairly clever role-reversal when "family man" Jack goes to buy rock salt at a convenience store. Back in reality, Jack looks up Kate--who is preparing to relocate to Paris. Can love conquer all? In this schmaltz-fest, what do you think? 

Cage's considerable talents are wasted on a predictable plotting and a story that's more of a retread than any at Jack's family tire business. Unfortunately, Oscar-winner Cage is no Jimmy Stewart--and this is no "It's a Wonderful Life."

Review by Michael Skordeles

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