The Family Man
|The Family Man|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brett Ratner|
|Produced by||Marc Abraham
|Written by||David Diamond
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Edited by||Mark Helfrich|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Running time||125 minutes|
The film centers on a man, who sees what could have been had he made a different decision 13 years prior. It is similar to It's a Wonderful Life in that it begins on Christmas Eve with a life-and-death situation, involving a supernatural being (posing as a gunman), who tries to convince the main character into taking an earnest look at his life. Moreover, in the end, the protagonists in both movies conclude that living a quiet family life is preferable to achieving success and wealth at work.
The film has also been compared to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol in that the protagonist is a greedy man who cares little about anyone except himself and then has his life outlook completely changed after a series of real-life "what if?" experiences.
Jack Campbell is a single, wealthy Wall Street executive living the high life in New York City. He is in the midst of putting together a billion dollar merger and has ordered an emergency meeting on Christmas Day to ensure its success. Family clearly has no meaning for him. In his office, on Christmas Eve, he is surprised to hear that his former girlfriend, Kate, tried to call him after many years. After reminiscing a bit, he walks into a convenience store where a lottery contestant, Cash, barges in saying that he has a winning ticket. The store clerk believes that Cash is lying and refuses to give him his winnings. Cash pulls out a gun and is about to shoot the clerk before Jack offers to buy the ticket from him, thus averting disaster. Jack and Cash settle their business deal outside, and Jack arrogantly offers to help Cash before going to sleep in his penthouse.
The next morning, on Christmas Day, Jack wakes up in a suburban New Jersey bedroom with Kate and two children. Shocked and confused, he hurries back to his office and condo in New York, but not even his closest friends recognize him. Confused, Jack runs out to the street and encounters Cash, who is now driving Jack's Ferrari. Cash explains that Jack is experiencing a glimpse of an alternate universe in order to learn a lesson. The crux of the lesson is unknown and is personal to Jack's life.
Jack realizes that he is living the life he could have had if he had not gone to London to study and become an investment banker but had stayed in the United States with his then girlfriend. He instead has a modest family life, where he is a tire salesman and Kate is a non-profit lawyer. Very soon, Jack's young daughter realizes his secret, thinks he is an alien and decides to assist him in surviving his new life. Jack struggles to fit into the role of a family man, making many serious blunders such as missing opening Christmas presents, flirting with a married woman, and forgetting his anniversary. He begins to succeed in his life, bonding with his children, falling in love with his wife, and working hard at his dull job.
He suddenly finds himself being offered a contract to work at the very same investment firm from his real life, having impressed the Chairman of the firm with his business savvy when he came in for a tire change. His old mentor once again gladly offers him a job, while a formerly sycophantic employee is instead in Jack's old position, with an assertiveness he did not possess as a subordinate. While he is wowed by the potential salary and other complimentary extreme luxuries, Kate argues that they are very happy where they are and that they should be thankful for the life they have.
Just as Jack is finally realizing the true value of his new life, he sees Cash again (now a store clerk) and demands to stay in this life, but, though sorrowful of Jack's situation, Cash informs him that there is nothing he can do. So, his epiphany jolts him back to his wealthy—yet as he now realizes, lonely and unfulfilled—former life on Christmas Day. In desperation, he forgoes closing his $130 billion pharmaceutical acquisition deal to intercept Kate, who had left the message the day before. He finds her moving out of a luxury townhouse. Like Jack, she also focused on her career and became a very wealthy corporate lawyer. Furthermore, she had only called him to give back some of his old possessions. Before she moves to Paris, he runs after her at the airport and describes the family they had in the alternate universe in an effort to win back her love. Shocked but intrigued, she agrees to have a cup of coffee at the airport, suggesting that they might have a future after all.
- Nicolas Cage as Jack Campbell
- Téa Leoni as Kate Reynolds / Kate Campbell
- Don Cheadle as Cash
- Makenzie Vega as Annie Campbell
- Jake & Ryan Milkovich as Josh Campbell
- Jeremy Piven as Arnie
- Lisa Thornhill as Evelyn Thompson
- Saul Rubinek as Alan Mintz
- Josef Sommer as Peter Lassiter
- Harve Presnell as Ed Reynolds
- Mary Beth Hurt as Adelle
- Francine York as Lorraine Reynolds
- Amber Valletta as Paula
- Ken Leung as Sam Wong
- Kate Walsh as Jeannie
Critical response 
As of 2012, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 53% based on 127 reviews with 67 fresh and 60 rotten. The site's consensus is "Despite good performances by Cage and especially by Leoni, The Family Man is too predictable and derivative to add anything new to the Christmas genre. Also, it sinks under its sentimentality". Chris Gore from Film Threat said: "If you're looking for a heartfelt, feel-good holiday movie, just give in and enjoy". Matthew Turner from ViewLondon said: "Perfect feel-good Christmas-period family entertainment. Highly recommended." Metacritic gave the film a rating of 42 out of 100 based on 28 reviews.
The film opened at #3 at the North American box office making $15.1 million USD in its opening weekend, behind What Women Want and Cast Away, which opened at the top spot. In the second weekend it grossed $12,771,990 and $16,746,030 in the third. After 15 weeks in release, it grossed $75,793,305 in the US and Canada and $48,951,778 elsewhere, bringing the film's total gross to $124,745,083.
Similar works include:
- A Christmas Carol, the Charles Dickens classic novel.
- Click, in which a man who often puts work before his family is shown a life in which work finally wins out and his family leaves him.
- It's a Wonderful Life, in which a man is able to see how things could have been if he'd never lived.
- Mr. Destiny, in which an angel-like being shows a man how his world would have been if an event in his past happened differently.
- Me Myself I, in which a career-focused, unmarried woman finds herself in an alternate universe in which she is married and has children.
- Sliding Doors, in which a woman at a crossroads in life experiences two different possibilities, one in which she stays with her boyfriend, one in which she leaves him to focus on her career.
- A Family Thanksgiving, A career-driven female attorney who is prepared to work through the holiday on a big case meets a mysterious woman who magically transforms her into a minivan-driving mom with a husband and two kids.
- What If..., A very similar but faith-oriented film where the alternate 'family' lifestyle is as a small-town pastor.
- Official website
- The Family Man at the Internet Movie Database
- The Family Man at AllMovie
- The Family Man at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Family Man at Metacritic
- The Family Man at Box Office Mojo