The Family Man

Tea Leoni and Nicolas Cage in The Family Man



On with the florid jumper, down with the heavy meat-based meal and away we go for Christmas. Oh no it isn’t, I hear you shouting. See, you’re getting it. But, inexplicably, when this festive-themed movie was released in the UK on DVD, it was decided that the middle of the summer was the time to do it. Windows, that’s the reason – the scheduling slots decreed by the suits to give the cinemas time to milk the product first, before the home entertainment departments get their hands on the big cash-laden teat. It’s that sort of film too – two sets of concerns vie for a hold on the central character, played by Nicolas Cage. In one, the real reality, he’s the big swinging broker guy who abandoned his girlfriend (Tea Leoni) years before for a job in London. In the other, fantasy, reality he didn’t. After the film does a cute bit of nonsense hocus-pocus stuff, involving Don Cheadle as a taxi driver with a supernatural connection, Cage winds up back where he might have been if he hadn’t taken that London job. Which is with boisterous kids and a slobbery dog and a wife who loves him, a two bit job that allows him to cover the bills with not much over. You know, the way most of us live. Big swinging Cage hates it. But the movie, like a rom-com, has a destination that’s set in stone. We know where Cage is heading and where we’re heading. What sort of a ride is it? Kind of on obverse It’s a Wonderful Life, deliberately so, with director Brett Ratner laying on all sorts of visual cues that Frank Capra is somewhere there in the mix. As for the enjoyment factor – Cage is nice, Leoni is nice, the kids are nice. It’s nice nice nice. Like a Christmas jumper, then – you don’t really want it but it is kind of cosy.

© Steve Morrissey 2001



The Family Man – at Amazon





X-Men: The Last Stand

Ben Foster as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand



The latest of the Marvel comics franchise is the most expensive film ever made but carries on just like the earlier two – lots of characters chasing too little plot. If you can call a po-faced allegory about society’s treatment of difference a plot. As ever Halle Berry looks nice, Hugh Jackman throws his chest out to good effect and Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen compete to see whose voice has the most actorly resonance.

To flesh things out a bit more, the story hinges on a mutant called Leech, whose special power is the production of something – hormones, pheromones, slimy oozy stuff, call it what you will – which turns our mutants back into normal everyday folk. Should this make mutants happy? Should they, in fact, be forced to have a bit of Leech therapy? Is this a godlike intervention in the affairs of men (mutant or otherwise) or a scientific breakthrough? In short, is difference a thing to be celebrated or despised? There is way too much of this heavy handedness going on and too many characters vying for screen time. Not having learnt a thing from the previous X-Men outings, this one introduces even more characters, including Kelsey Grammer’s Beast, Ben Foster’s Angel, Vinnie Jones’s Juggernaut, Eric Dane’s Multiple Man, Dania Ramirez’s Callisto and of course Leech, played by Cameron Bright. Buzzing round the edges are even more new faces, returning old hands and cameos. There are so many characters, in fact, that director Brett Ratner – brought in after Darren Aronofsky, Bryan Singer, Joss Whedon, Alex Proyas, Zack Snyder and Matthew Vaughn had all passed – has to get absurdly whizzy in an attempt to fit everyone in. But just because you have a property called Rush Hour on the CV doesn’t mean you’re the right man for the job. Though in Ratner’s defence, who could have turned all these ingredients into something tasty?

© Steve Morrissey 2005


X-Men: The Last Stand – at Amazon