The Family Man
When The Family Man opened in theaters last December, comparisons were made to Frank Capra’s ”It’s a Wonderful Life”: Both films are midlife crisis fantasies in which angelic intervention allows the hero to appreciate the eternal verities of family and belonging. In truth, ”Family Man” is ”Wonderful Life” turned inside out, and not particularly for the better. Where Jimmy Stewart got to see how lousy Bedford Falls would be if he’d never been born, Nicolas Cage’s Jack Campbell finally understands how happy he’d have been if he’d just married Kate (Téa Leoni), moved to New Jersey, and had kids rather than become a coldhearted czar of Wall Street.
Whereas the older film explores all the things that could go wrong, ”The Family Man” wades around in the shallower end of the pool by focusing on what’s missing from Jack’s life: It’s actually Mr. Potter’s dream of waking up to discover that he’s turned into George Bailey. That said, ”Man”’s a pleasant enough slab of rental wish fulfillment, especially in a climactic scene where Jack woos an older, doubting Kate with details of their alterna life together. You just never feel, as you do in ”Life,” that the dance floor is about to open into an abyss.