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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • 9 Deleted scenes
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 3 Audio commentary - Director Brett Ratner, Music director Danny Elfman, Producer Marc Abraham
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • Featurette - Hi Jack montage
  • Animated menus
  • Music video - This Could Be Heaven - Seal
  • Awards/Nominations - The Family Man - the Story of a Film
  • Outtakes

The Family Man

Warner Bros./Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 120 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

I think I can safely say that we have all given it at least a little thought at some point in our lives. What if I had taken that job? What if I hadn’t broken up with so-and so? What if I'd dyed my hair blonde rather than red? And so since as long ago as Frank Capra's seminal tear-jerking 1940's Christmastime staple It's A Wonderful Life (possibly even before then), the movie world has had another almost-guaranteed genre to exploit.

And so along comes another entrant, The Family Man. It's 1987, and Jack (Nic Cage) is about to leave his sweetheart Kate (Tea Leoni) for a year-long internship at Barclays Bank in London, flying the only airline that appeared to have existed in the US at the time, PanAm (given posthumous product placement here, an intriguing concept). He brusquely fends off Kate's pleas for him to stay so they can start their life together, refuses to listen to her bad feeling about all this (never underestimate women's intuition) and is off…

Flash forward to thirteen years later, it's Christmas Eve and the girl Jack has woken up in his flash pad with certainly isn't Kate. Still, he's obviously mind-numbingly successful, having a closet bursting with posh suits, a silver Ferrari and a position as President of a stockbroking firm. Life is sweet. Almost as if still stuck in the "greed is good" '80s, he expects his workers to stay back 'til all hours Christmas Eve, and even to front up for a meeting on Christmas Day itself (shades of Alan Rickman in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves anybody?!) - hey, he has no family, why should anybody else? But who'd have thought that a quick convenience store stop for an eggnog fix would send his entire world into a spin cycle? He finds himself involved in an altercation with an indignant, gun-toting lottery winner named Cash (Don Cheadle), does a quick deal to extricate himself from danger, heads home and thinking nothing more of it is off to sleepy-bobos land.

Awaking Christmas morning to the strains of Woody Woodpecker, he quickly realises something is rather amiss, with Kate snuggled up to him and a little girl bursting into the room shouting "Daddy!". What the…? (And he doesn’t even know about the baby, dog or in-laws yet!) After a run-in with the almost guardian-angel/devil-like Cash, he is informed that he is experiencing a "glimpse" of what could have been, and sets about begrudgingly adjusting to driving a mini-van rather than an expensive Italian penis-extension, living in suburban New Jersey rather than a New York penthouse, coping with baby piddle and poo and working for his Stetson-bedecked father-in-law's tyre (sorry, "tire") store rather than his beloved firm...

He thought he had everything he ever desired before, but did he really?

  Video
Contract

Village Roadshow have certainly come an incredibly long way since their early DVD efforts, presenting us with another simply stunning transfer here. Brought to us in glorious 2.35:1 16x9 enhanced widescreen, the print is essentially flawless, two phenomenally brief glimpses of shimmering being the only fault I could find to pick on.

Suffice it to say that it all looks rather glorious, colour saturation, skin tones, black levels, contrast - you name something to pick up on and they all pass the test here with flying colours. The layer change occurs mid-scene and is definitely noticeable, however it at least occurs at a quiet point and gives a nice freeze-frame of Mr Cage for some of us to drool over.

  Audio
Contract

The feature comes to us in Dolby 5.1, and much like the visual presentation is purely fantastic. Certainly the film isn’t the type to exploit the extra speakers to the max, however some nice subtle surround effects are employed, and the subwoofwoof gets a gentle workout on occasions. It is all nicely spaced out, dialogue is always clear and I noticed no issues at all with synching.

The genius-like Danny Elfman was called in to provide the score, and it's another cracker (hohoho) from ex-Oingo Boingo main man. No stranger to Christmassy-themed scores, his work adds a beautiful magical quality to the festive scenes, and has a certain classic film score vibe to it which truly adds to the viewing experience.

There isn’t a lot in the way of actual songs included. A number of Christmas ditties do find a place, and a few more contemporary tracks pop up from the likes of the Rolling Stones, Chris Isaak, Seal, Morcheeba and the god-like Elvis Costello.

  Extras
Contract

Hold on to your Father Christmas hats folks, for the subtle but effective animated menus lead us into much to plough through here.

Director's commentary - Brett Ratner: Joined by writers David Diamond and David Weissman, right from the get-go this is an engaging and informative commentary. The three have a great rapport, and Ratner's keenness to spread his love of this work of his is obvious, but not at all annoying. There's much of interest pointed out here, ranging from the irony of a Christmas film being produced and crewed almost entirely by people of the Jewish faith, to the usual location info, talk about screen tests and many DYNs…

Music director's commentary - Danny Elfman: Curiously a kind of isolated score meets commentary track, Danny pipes up occasionally with titbits on how the director's enthusiasm for the project got him hooked, his pleasure at getting to do a more classic-styled score, and technical aspects of planning a score that should have any budding musician in rapture. His interruptions are rare, and the removal of dialogue in scenes wherever music is placed (including the irregular pop songs and carols) is most welcome. Sadly though it is only in two-channel Dolby Stereo.

Producer's commentary - Marc (not 'Mark' as the menus tell us) Abraham: Flying solo, here we get one of the producers' perspectives on the film. He's quite laid back, but does offer some further interesting background information about the film, even if it does tend to be a bit too much of an admiration-fest at times. It's certainly not the greatest commentary ever, but it does contain enough to make it worthy of any fan of the film's time.

The making of The Family Man: Twenty minutes of made-for-TV documentary, this is in a ratio of around 1.85:1 and carries Dolby Stereo sound (as do all the other extras, so I won't mention that again.) There are brief interviews with director Ratner, producer Abraham plus actors Cage, Leoni and Piven, and whilst predominantly featuring footage from the film it is nicely assembled. It does have a few interesting facts to impart, such as how after completing Rush Hour Ratner desperately wanted this gig, even after Curtis Hansen (LA Confidential) landed it, and how once Hansen dumped the project he virtually had to beg and plead to actually get it, and subsequently had to beg and plead with an uncertain Nic to accept the starring role.

Deleted scenes: Nine scenes totalling around thirteen and a half minutes in duration, whilst presented in their correct ratio they are rather grainy and incomplete at times. Some are genuine cuts (including an excruciating-to-the-ears violin scene), whilst others are extended scenes, and we even get to hear how they get dogs to behave themselves, apparently by using a beepy sound. Yes, it appears even Hollywood dogs have pagers!

Out takes: Around nine minutes of crack-ups, retakes and other stuff-ups, also in their correct ratio and rather grainy. On viewing this I'd say that any casting agents out there would be very well advised to never pair Cage and Piven together again…

Hi Jack montage: No, we're not talking the airplane-type hijacks; rather this is a curious 42-second collection of most every line from the film containing the name "Jack". Complete with time codes it doesn’t really serve any useful purpose.

Cast and crew biographies: Fun to read blurbs on Nic Cage (who is apparently known as the jazz musician of actors due to his habit for improvisation), Tea Leoni (who has come a long way from the daytime soapie Santa Barbera), Don Cheadle (finally I know where I've seen him before - David E Kelley's Picket Fences) and director Brett Ratner (who includes Madonna's Austin Powers theme Beautiful Stranger in his resume).

Theatrical trailer: Two and a half minutes in duration, this is in a ratio of 1.85:1 and is clean and clear. It also includes two songs that didn't make it to the final film, the rather appropriate Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads, and U2's beautiful One.

Music video - This Could Be Heaven by Seal: Every Tupperware vendor's favourite singer returns with what starts out as rather typical soundtrack fare. However, once the gospel choir kicks in it is just superb - mind you if you tacked a gospel choir onto the Smurf Song I'd most likely be captivated. In a 2.35:1 ratio and featuring some scenes straight from the film, old Scarface also pops up in others, sometimes along with the cast.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Basically just the opening titles with alternative music, in this case the beloved Chrissie song courtesy of Perry Como. Judging by the producer's commentary, Ratner promised him that this would make it onto the DVD, so it's nice to know he's a man of his word.

Dolby Digital trailer: The one with the choo-choo puff-puff.

  Overall  
Contract

The Family Man could easily be looked upon cynically, especially as it followed quite closely in the wake of the predominantly British Sliding Doors and even the under-rated Australian flick Me Myself I. Indeed I did get a bit restless whilst viewing this, however it wasn't until afterwards that it really sank in a lot more. I then realised how much I had actually enjoyed it, and indeed how poignant it could be at times.

The ever-gorgeous Nic puts in a fabulous performance as Jack, especially as he is anything but likeable for much of the film. But as he begins to realise just exactly what has been missing from his life, and gains an appreciation for just what he is getting from this "glimpse", he does soften. Tea Leoni is also brilliant, her performance here leading me to wonder why she doesn’t get offered more leading roles - she has so much more to offer than just being the ditz from The Naked Truth.

As a disc this is simply an exemplary example of getting it right. Superb visually and sonically, and laden almost to breaking point with three commentaries and skip-loads more extras, this presents phenomenal value for money, and really shows up certain other companies who charge more for their discs and feel they're being generous in giving us just a trailer.

Whilst it is never going to be destined for Capra-like legend status, The Family Man is still a very well crafted and enjoyable film, and is certainly a cut above most recent entrants into the old romantic comedy genre. If you're not sure then give it a rent, but if you wish to wade through the extras you'd better do it on a weekend.

Oh, and the best news? There's absolutely no Helen Hunt anywhere in sight!


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      And I quote...
    "Enjoyable, poignant and packed with more extras than a purchase from Demtel - a cut above your average romantic comedy..."
    - Amy Flower
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Pioneer DV-535
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Onkyo TX-DS494
    • Speakers:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse RBS662
    • Centre Speaker:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECC442
    • Surrounds:
          DB Dynamics Eclipse ECR042
    • Subwoofer:
          DTX Digital 4.8
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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