Since I had decided to leave the basement Christmas lights and decorations up for one more day, I sat down to watch one of my favorite movies. The Family Man. Unless you’re a huge fan of Nicholas Cage or Téa Leoni, you’ve probably never even heard of this Christmas gem. As I watched this classic, something occurred to me that hadn’t before. This film could easily have been called “George Bailey Gets His Wish”.
Let me explain. If you’re familiar with the Christmas Classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, you’ll remember that George Bailey always felt he was meant for bigger things, but life kept getting in the way. Then it hit me. The Family Man is a modern-day sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life but in reverse. Cage’s character Jack Campbell is given a “glimpse” into what his life could have been like if he hadn’t left Kate (Téa Leoni) at the airport and gotten on a plane to London.
In this movie, the part of Clarence / Cash is played by Don Cheadle, whose job is to test people down here on earth. When he pretends to be a gang-banger, trying to cash in a possibly bogus lottery ticket at a market, Jack intervenes when things get tense. They have a brief discussion, and the next morning, Christmas Day, Jack wakes up in his “glimpse”.
In this version of his life, he married Kate and they have two small kids, Annie and Josh. Plus, a big dog named Lucy. He lives in a house in suburban New Jersey, instead of his luxury apartment in the city. Needless to say, this is all very disconcerting, and he immediately takes off for New York. Only to find once he gets there that nobody knows him at his apartment or office.
As he exits his office building, he has no idea what to do next. Suddenly, Cash pulls up in Jack’s Ferrari. He explains the concept of “the glimpse”, while Jack hyperventilates into a paper bag. Afterward, Jack makes his way back home, only to find a very pissed off Kate. She tells him that he has missed Christmas, an unforgivable crime. At that point, Annie takes the bell (a reference to It’s a Wonderful Life) that Cash had given Jack, and thinks it’s for her new bike.
What follows is what you would expect if you were suddenly dropped into someone else’s life. Annie becomes convinced that Jack is a stand-in for her real father, who has been abducted by aliens. She agrees to help Jack in his glimpse, so her real dad can return someday. She is just adorable.
The plot takes various twists and turns, as Jack tries to find a way to make the best of his new life. Of course, a glimpse is by its nature a temporary thing. I will leave the rest to your imagination. However, every time I see this movie it makes me smile. The thought that it’s never too late to change the course of your life is very comforting. In Jack’s case (and mine) that course change was thrust upon him. Other times we make the choice ourselves.
Either way, it can be a rocky road. One full of very large dog poops in Jack’s case. However, life has a way of working itself out. I won’t give away the rest of the movie, but I will give it my wholehearted endorsement. I think it has shown up on TNT or TBS recently. However, if you go online, you can get it from Best Buy on DVD for about $10. If you decide to pick it up, you won’t be disappointed. If you check out this classic, please leave a comment and let me know what you think.
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