The Family Man might have been good if someone had told Nicolas Cage to act like a normal man. Cage's success comes from his slightly eccentric reading of his characters. So casting him as an executive who discovers the joy of being a normal guy -- a loving husband, father and a tire salesman -- doesn't work. Cage just can't let go of his weirdness.Here, he plays a self-absorbed Wall Street executive given the chance by a roaming spiritual adviser (Don Cheadle) to see what his life would have been like if he'd married his college sweetheart (Téa Leoni) instead of leaving her behind to start his career.
This is the Hollywood remake of the Australian film Me, Myself And I, starring Rachel Griffiths. In that film the marriage is falling apart and Griffiths and her husband are both cheating on one another.
Everything is sanitized in the Hollywood version. The marital problems are solved too easily -- with an accompanying catchy pop song playing in the background -- usually by Leoni giving the twitchy Cage the opportunity to get things right.
Many men (and a lot of women, for that matter) would change their lives to be coupled with the bright, understanding and sexy Leoni. She's the best thing in the film, despite being confined to a role that boils down to two tasks -- showing love and support and giving the film a spunkiness that isn't in the script.
In the end, The Family Man functions as a huge, honking endorsement of wedlock and parenthood. That would be fine if it had the guts to get down and dirty to show how much two people who love each other can sometimes dislike each other and still keep going.THE FAMILY MAN directed by Brett Ratner, written by David Diamond and David Weissman, produced by Marc Abraham, Zvi Howard Rosenman, Tony Ludwig and Alan Riche, with Nicolas Cage, Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle and Jeremy Piven. 120 minutes. A Beacon Pictures production. A Universal Pictures release. Opens Friday (December 22). Rating: NN