Now it can be argued that The Family Man is more of a “What If?” movie that happens to be set at Christmas rather than a Christmas movie. Granted the whole movie doesn’t take place on Christmas so that is a blow against its Christmas status but when I watch it, I cannot picture it without the Christmas theme; it just doesn’t have the same impact to the story without it. If you think about it though, the only other “What If?” movie set at Christmas time is It’s a Wonderful Life, which is one of the earliest Christmas classics of all time.
What if this movie ended up being directed by Curtis Hanson?
The main plot difference between the two movies is that at the beginning of The Family Man, the protagonist Jack Campbell believes he has everything but at the beginning of It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey believes he has nothing. They are the same in the sense that they have an “angel” who pushes them into an alternate reality to realize what they were missing and/or how they are important to those around them.
The Family Man is a fairly forgettable film that didn’t make a lot of money in the domestic box office (made up some profits globally), and won no major awards.
In comparison, It’s Wonderful Life was released to mixed reviews but was considered one of the best movies of that year. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, and had renewed life on VHS, becoming a Christmas classic to many households. It was also chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry in 1990.
Now It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t become popular in the mainstream until over 30 years after its release and The Family Man was only released 16 years ago so maybe there is still time. I doubt it however since the movie is truly subpar in contrast.
Now I’m being a bit unfair comparing The Family Man to It’s a Wonderful Life, especially since the latter is my all-time favourite Christmas movie (you’ll hear more about that later on this month). The Family Man is by no means a terrible movie. In terms of a Christmas movie it seems a bit confused about what it is trying to tell us is important since the family idea it is selling the main character on is not real. I suppose the idea it leaves me with is that money isn’t everything and that it is important to be happy but some compromises are often needed for the sake of other’s happiness.
Also The Family Man is rated higher on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) than movies that I consider more memorable such as The Santa Clause or How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It is also listed on Box Office Mojo in the top 10 highest grossing “What If” movies.
So I will leave you on this note. The Family Man may not be one of the better movies I’ve seen lately, nor a “true” Christmas movie, but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to a feel good movie. It is sweet, features a most wonderful Téa Leoni, and a not too crazy Nicholas Cage (trust me I’ve seen him much worse). If you are looking for a new Christmas movie to spice things up this December, maybe give it a try. Just don’t watch it too close to It’s a Wonderful Life otherwise you will definitely feel cheated.
Also don’t watch it if you really don’t like Nic Cage.
Have you seen The Family Man? What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments!