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THE FAMILY MAN ($27) is a charming romantic fantasy that takes the IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE premise and places a new spin on it. Instead of showing it’s protagonist how empty and meaningless the world would be without his presence, THE FAMILY MAN shows its lead character how much more fulfilling his life would have been had he chosen the road not taken. Nicolas Cage stars in THE FAMILY MAN as Jack Campbell, a rich, highly successful wheeler-dealer, who has an empty personal life. After doing a good deed on Christmas Eve, Jack awakens Christmas morning to discover, much to his horror, that he is living in New Jersey and married to the woman he left behind thirteen years earlier to start his lucrative career in high finance. At first, Jacks finds it difficult to adjust to his change of circumstance, but slowly he comes to realize that this other life isn’t as bad as he first thought and maybe he should have married the woman he loved, instead of letting his career get in the way. The cast of THE FAMILY MAN also features Téa Leoni, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven, Saul Rubinek, Josef Sommer, Lisa Thornhill, Harve Presnell and Mary Beth Hurt.

Universal Home Video has made THE FAMILY MAN available in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is very attractive and it shows off Dante Spinotti’s beautiful cinematography. There is a very good level of sharpness and detail in the image, although there are minor inconsistencies in certain shots. Still, there is nothing here that really detracts terribly from the quality of the transfer. Colors are nicely saturated hues are reproduced with complete stability, while flesh tones appear natural and sometimes offer an attractive glow. Blacks are accurately rendered, plus the picture produces a fairly solid level of shadow detail during darker sequences. Dual layer authoring hides all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a very subdued mix, with little by way of directional activity. Considering the type of film it is, I expected THE FAMILY MAN to be a dialogue driven film and the reserved sound design really doesn’t push the material beyond my expectations. The actors’ voices are reproduced with a natural timbre and there are no problems with intelligibility. Danny Elfman provides the film with a moving, albeit understated score that adds an additional emotional layer to the film. The music boasts excellent fidelity and the surround mix gives it an enveloping quality. THE FAMILY MAN also includes a DTS 5.1 channel soundtrack that is a virtual carbon copy of its Dolby Digital counterpart. Whatever sonic advantages the higher resolution of DTS generally provides, won’t be readily apparent in this particular sound mix. A French Dolby Surround track is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a number of supplements. THE FAMILY MAN includes three separate running audio commentaries. The first features director Brett Ratner and screenwriters David Diamond and David Weissman, the second includes producer Marc Abraham and the third is with composer Danny Elfman. The first two provide the requisite production details and humorous anecdotes, while the third deals primarily with the film’s score. Elfman’s comments are limited, so there are some lengthy silent passages on this particular track. Also included on the DVD is a twenty-minute Spotlight: On Location featurette that looks at the production of the film. The featurette is enjoyable and somewhat less fluffy than the typical PR piece. Nine deleted scenes are provided on the DVD, although they lack director’s comments. Six amusing outtakes are presented on the DVD, for those who enjoy watching stars flub lines or laughing uncontrollably. The Hi Jack montage is an odd assemblage of footage from the film that deals with others responding to the main character’s identity. A Seal music video for the song This Must Be Heaven is also included, as is an alternate version of the film’s titles with different music. An interactive game, production notes and biographies/filmographies fill out the supplements.

Although it will never be regarded the holiday classic that IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has become, THE FAMILY MAN is an enjoyable romantic fantasy. Universal’s DVD presentation looks and sounds quite good, plus the disc offers plenty of in the form of supplemental features. If you are going to check out THE FAMILY MAN, your best bet it to do so on DVD.


The Family Man


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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