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Leoni Online: The Articles — The Family Man DVD Review

Title: Family Man: Collector’s Edition
Reviewer: Aaron Beierle
Studio: Universal
Movie Rating: 3-5-4173579
Picture Rating: 3-5-4173579
Sound Rating: 2-5-9945773
Extras Rating: 4-2199866
Repeat Viewing: 3-6411883
Advice: Recommended
Worth: $17.50

The Movie:


Although the movie didn’t seem to want to spark comparisons, “The Family Man” often seems an awful lot like a new-school spin-off on “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Not saying it’s a bad thing, but opening to discuss how things stand. It’s a remake without being a remake, I suppose one could say. In its own way though, “Family Man” does a decent job at looking at what life may be like on the road not taken. Nicholas Cage plays Jack Campbell, a member of the Manhattan business elite who calls in his entire force for a Christmas Eve meeting because there’s about to be a merger that could bring everyone quite a bit of cash. Late that night, Jack stops by a local mart that’s open late. A street hustler (Don Cheadle) comes into the place and claims to have a winning lotto ticket. When the clerk won’t check the ticket, he threatens to hold the place up. Jack offers to buy the ticket and the hustler accepts. They walk outside and he asks Jack if he has everything he wants in life. Thinking about his business deals and wealth, he says yes. Cheadle’s character then thinks he can prove Jack wrong. Jack goes to bed that night and wakes up in an alternate universe where he’s married to the college sweetheart that he left behind, Kate (Tea Leoni). He’s got two kids, works at a tire dealership, and lives in New Jersey. At first, he’s scared out of his mind that all of his belongings are now gone, but after a while, he begins to warm up to the situation. Things don’t exactly go right at first as Jack forgets Christmas morning in his haste to figure out what the hell is going on and begins to resent his situation, but after a while, he begins to figure out how this world works a little better. Cage has been an actor with mixed results lately, from 1995’s outstanding “Leaving Las Vegas” to decent action in “Con Air” to not so pleasant action in Dominic Sena’s dull remake of “Gone In 60 Seconds”. He’s more confident in the role of Jack and although not outstanding, he still has some fine moments early on playing a businessman, sort of a lite version of the kind of roles that Michael Douglas usually plays. During the family sequences, he skips nicely from being confused, in terror, annoyed at his situation and finally, starting to even like being a “family man”. His snappy way of delivering dialogue also helps to liven up some moments that might be otherwise a bit slow. Leoni, previously a second-level player in quite a few major features (most notably “Deep Impact”), is really, truly strong in her role as Kate. Warm, likeable, sympathetic and playing the character with realistic emotions and actions, Leoni really breathes life into a character that probably wasn’t a great deal to begin with in the screenplay. The only thing that I didn’t care for in “Family Man” was really that the film goes on a little longer than it should have. At a little over two hours, the picture begins to drag on and go over the same ground. About 10-15 minutes could have been dropped from the picture. Still, for the majority, “Rush Hour” director Brett Rattner does a respectable job handling the drama. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but I found “The Family Man” an enjoyable feature.



VIDEO: Although not quite the best effort that Universal has shown they are previously capable of, “Family Man” is presented in a very good looking 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that I was often very pleased by. Dante Spinotti, a cinematographer who has worked often with director Michael Mann (“Heat”, “Last Of The Mohicans”), does beautiful work here, and he provides crisp, beautifully composed images. The presentation often does justice to his work, looking sharp and detailed, with good clarity and occasional fine depth. There were only a couple of sequences that looked a little bit on the soft side. Problems were noticable, but relatively minor. I noticed a couple of very light traces of edge enhancement and pixelation, but neither of these caused distraction. Print flaws were kept to a minimum – there were a couple of slight speckles and a mark or two, but I didn’t think there was more than I would expect to see (although usually, on a new film, I would like to be able to not expect any). Colors looked great throughout the picture. Although most of the exteriors are blanketed by a layer of cold, white snow, the interiors are a wash with warm colors and rich tones. Not without a few minor bumps, Universal has still done a fine job with this presentation.


SOUND: Ratner provided a high-volume sound presentation for “Rush Hour”, but this is certainly a different film in tone and there also certainly aren’t any car chases during the running time. Universal presents “Family Man” in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, but neither of the versions really provide much in the way of sound activity. The great majority of the audio comes from the front, as it only seemed like Danny Elfman’s score was the sound element that was occasionally offered by the surrounds. It would have been nice if some additional ambient sounds were offered during the outdoor sequences and some of the busier indoor sequences to give the audience a more convincing idea what’s going on around the characters in the scene, but I suppose with a film like this one, the filmmakers wanted to give the conversations the focus as several scenes fold up almost completely sound-wise. Danny Elfman’s score sounds quite good, coming across fully and richly, it’s really the only significant element in the sound besides the dialogue. Trying to compare the Dolby Digital and DTS presentations is, as many know with Universal DVDs, hard to do since the studio remains one of the few that do not allow switching between audio tracks with the remote. As the movie remains a bit uninspired with its use of surround to begin with, attempting to switch between the two tracks for scenes revealed differences that were slight. Elfman’s score sounded ever-so-slightly fuller on this presentation and some sound effects sounded smoother and clearer. The improvements by the DTS track though, were minimal.

MENUS:: Menus are nicely animated, with scenes from the film in the background of the main menu and quick clips are the transitions between main and sub-menus. On a related presentation issue, but not under consideration in the final grade for any reason, is the fact that the cover art has been changed for the front of the box with a completely different cover image. I actually really liked the poster art a lot and although I can sort of understand changing the “Christmas”-ish poster art since the DVD is being released in the middle of the Summer, the cover is such a change that people who are not terribly familiar with the film might not recognize it at first.


Commentary: This is a commentary from director Brett Ratner and writers David Diamond and David Weissman. Ratner has provided commentary before for “Rush Hour” and proved to be a highly entertaining speaker, with quite a reserve of energy and enthusiasm about that project. He’s similarly bright and fun here, providing some humor throughout the track as well as quite a bit of interesting information about the production. The director does most of the talking and the two writers provide backing information, chatting about what they enjoy about the film or pointing out specific details about how a scene was filmed.

Ratner offers his viewpoint on working with the performers as well as the look of the movie and the story. There’s a few moments during the track when he talks about how wonderful it was to work with some of the people involved, but thankfully rather than dwelling on praising those that he worked with, he gets back to the business of the scene at hand quickly. The director obviously is having fun talking about the experiences of the movie and I got into the discussion and found the track engaging.

Commentary Two & Three: The second commentary is from producer Marc Abraham. The producer is generally informative throughout the track, but can’t help but be less energetic than the fun and hyper talk that Ratner provided. Still, although there are some occasional gaps of silence, the producer does begin to warm up as the track goes on, providing some interesting stories such as one early on about when a Ferrari was brought onto the set for Cage to okay and it turned out that the actor had formerly been the owner of that specific car. Although I was a bit curious about why Abraham wasn’t included with the other group as the track started, it became apparent as the commentary went on that he could hold his own on the track nicely. The third commentary is a mixture of things. Part of the time, it is an isolated score (Dolby 2.0) with Danny Elfman’s music and when the music is not playing, Elfman provides commentary. It didn’t seem like much of a commentary though, as I had a hard time finding when the composer spoke much beyond over the opening sequence.

Deleted Scenes: 9 deleted scenes are provided. As “The Family Man” is already a pretty long feature to begin with, I can see why there had to be some edits. These scenes play either like extended bits that would have hurt the pacing, or like material that’s good on its own, but didn’t really work for the characters that well. Nice to have, but I didn’t think any of it should have been put back into the movie. These scenes are presented in rough form.

Outtakes: Nicholas Cage and Jeremy Piven really seemed to get along well in this film, as indicated by a few of these outtakes, where Cage practically has to stop looking at Piven to keep from cracking up. The first clip is 2 and a half minutes of Cage and Piven trying to get a scene done, but Cage can’t help but break into laughter. There’s a total of six clips in all.

Hi, Jack Montage: In the discs weirdest extra, this is a clip of people saying the name of the Cage character.

Opening Scene W/Alternate Score: This presents the film’s opening sequence with “It’s Begining To Look A Lot Like Christmas” on the soundtrack.

Trailer: The film’s theatrical trailer in Dolby Digital 5.1. The trailer presents the music wonderfully, filling the room.

Also: 20 minute “Spotlight On Location” making-of documentary; Choose Your Fate game; Seal “This Could Be Heaven” music video; production notes; cast/crew bios; recommendations; DVD-ROM features including game, screensaver, wallpaper, production info and more.


Final Thoughts: “The Family Man” was a very pleasant movie that, while nothing groundbreaking, certainly didn’t strike me as phony, either. The performances were good, and although the film could have used some editing, didn’t bore me, either. Universal has went all-out for the DVD edition, providing good picture quality (but rather uninspired audio) and quite a lot of extra content.

Intrigued? Buy “Family Man: Collector’s Edition” now!

Review courtesy of dvdtalk.com