What You Need To Know:
THE FAMILY MAN is a heart-rending movie. Very well written, it makes you laugh and cry. Better yet, it’s an intentionally moral movie. It wants to prove that everyone needs love, marriage, children, and that these things are much more important than fame or fortune, and it does prove its case. Its spiritual underpinnings are much more vague, however. There are many light-weight profanities. Also, there’s a conscious earthiness to even the good choices. Drinking is part and parcel to family life, sex is thrilling, especially with your wife, and adultery is beguiling. THE FAMILY MAN will strike a responsive chord in many people. It is too bad that it didn’t have more courage to proclaim its convictions with more integrity.
(BB, C, H, LLL, V, SS, NN, AA, D) Very moral worldview with slight Christian references, slight romantic overtones & significant humanist content.; 17 obscenities, 22 light profanites many of which are exclamations & baby relieves himself on father; threat of violence; clearly implied fornication & adultery considered but rejected; upper male nudity, shadow female nudity fairly explicit in shower, nude doll on bar, & nude baby; alcohol use & drunkenness; and, smoking.
THE FAMILY MAN has been billed as a modern IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, a movie that didn’t do well at the box office but soon after its initial release became everyone’s favorite. Structurally, however, FAMILY MAN is more like “Scrooge Lite” and reminiscent of DISNEY’S THE KID earlier this year.
THE FAMILY MAN opens in 1987 with college student Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage in one of his best roles) saying goodbye to his girlfriend Kate as he heads off to England for an internship with a bank. Thirteen years later, Jack Campbell is fornicating with a beautiful blonde in a gorgeous penthouse apartment. He is Mr. Rich and Famous. He drives his Ferrari down to his office on Christmas Eve and proceeds to negotiate a $120 million merger. In a friendly, but Scrooge-like fashion, he wants his staff there at noon on Christmas Day to complete the deal. He says that their Christmas will come when they complete the merger and receive their bonuses. Alan, his right hand man, wants to go home and be with his family, but Jack convinces him that the deal is too important.
Late that night, Jack is feeling so good about himself that he decides to walk home. He stops at a corner market to buy some eggnog and is caught up in a very strange situation. A black man with a lottery ticket starts waving a gun, insisting that the store accept the ticket. In an uncharacteristic act of generosity, Jack buys the ticket and tells the black man that he can help him, and that everybody needs something. They step outside. Behind them is a giant cross on a tall office building. Suddenly, it is the black man who is in control. He asks Jack what he needs and tells Jack that, for his good deed, Jack is going to get a glimpse of what his life could’ve been. Instead of waking up in his penthouse on Christmas morning, he wakes up to in a little red brick row house in New Jersey.
His former girlfriend Kate is now his wife. He has two adorable children: an incredibly honest and precocious daughter named Annie, and an adorable baby boy named Josh. Jack is confused and tries to find out what happened.
Driving frantically to New York, he finds out that nobody in his life remembers him. Back in N.J., he finds out that he’s had a complete married life with Kate and that he sells tires at his father-in-law’s tire dealership. He is incredibly disappointed by this mundane, middle-class life. By the end of his brief glimpse of what life could’ve been, he discovers, of course, the real values of life, almost the same way Scrooge discovered the real meaning of Christmas after the three Ghosts gave him a glimpse of his life from a different perspective.
THE FAMILY MAN is a heart-rending movie. Very well written, it makes you laugh and cry. Better yet, it’s an intentionally moral movie. It wants to prove that everyone needs love, marriage, children, and that these things are much more important than fame or fortune, and it does prove its case.
Unlike SCROOGE or IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, however, its spiritual underpinning is much more vague. One can only guess that the African-American man who gives him a glimpse is an angel. Any theological denotations are consciously avoided. There is a cross in the movie and it is Christmas, but regrettably there is also significant profanity, even if some of it is lightweight exclamations. In other words, this is “Christianity Lite,” and, to make sure that it doesn’t offend anybody, Jesus’ name is used as an exclamatory profanity. Furthermore, there’s a conscious earthiness to even the good choices. Drinking is part and parcel to family life, sex is thrilling, especially with your wife, adultery is beguiling. These are not the well-considered virtues of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but they are an attempt to show there’s a better way, though this better way may not remove the elements that too many people associate with fun.
THE FAMILY MAN just avoids being too sappy in places. It’ll strike a responsive chord in many people. It is too bad that it didn’t have more courage to proclaim its convictions with more integrity.