The Family Man: Collector’s Edition – By Sean O’Connell

After the frantic “”Money Talks”” and “”Rush Hour,”” many wondered what director Brett Ratner was doing taking on a Frank Capra-ish family film about a Wall Street tycoon (Nicolas Cage) given a glimpse into the life that could have been. But with the right cast and a heartwarming screenplay, the versatile Ratner proves he can survive outside of ChrisTucker’s long shadow and deliver a humorous holiday flick in “”The Family Man.””

Cage plays Jack Campbell, a wealthy businessman who’s on the verge on completing a massive financial deal. Jack is the typical scrooge. It’s Christmas, but he makes his workers stay late at the office to firm up the pact. He sleeps with beautiful women, flirts with his penthouse neighbors and splurges on the finest cars, clothes and liquors. Jack’s not completely evil – he is seen giving his doorman choice financial advice on where to invest the man’s holiday tips – he just has different priorities. That wasn’t always the case, though, and a phone message from an old girlfriend, Kate Reynolds (Tea Leoni) reminds him of his early days. Apparently back in college, Jack had an opportunity to go to London and study, but Kate asked him to stay behind with her. Jack chose London, and his life was never the same.It’s a chance encounter with a homeless man (Don Cheadle) at a convenience store one night, though, that brings Jack’s past into the present. After a brief, cryptic conversation with the man, Jack goes to sleep in his penthouse and wakes up in an alternate reality,wherein he left that flight to London years ago and stayed with Kate. The couple now lives in New Jersey, where they’re raising two children. What’s worse, Jack works at his father-in-law’s shop as a tire salesman, and the hallowed corridors of Wall Street are miles away. The only problem is that Jack has retained all of his memories, and no one believes his rantings that he’s not the father, husband and suburbanite they think he is. And the only way for Jack to get back to the life he thinks he wants is to find the value of the life he left behind.Released in a cramped Christmas season, “”Family Man”” opened small ($15M) and went on to earn a tidy but none-too-spectacular $75M. Dismissed as sappy and “”just another feel good film,”” “”Family Man”” had a hard time competing with Oscar contenders like “”Cast Away,”” “”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”” and “”Traffic.”” It’s a shame, for “”Family Man”” really is a cute flick with fine performances from Cage, Cheadle and Jeremy Piven, playing Jack’s best friend, bowling buddy and overall partner insuburban warfare. After a string of dark brooders (“”8MM,”” “”Bringing Out the Dead””), it’s refreshing to see Cage trying his hand at goofy comedies again. He does “”frazzled”” quite well, and he turns it on for this role. And Makenzie Vega, playing the couple’s young daughter Annie who knows this man isn’t her father, sets up some gentle jokes.The rock of the cast, though, is Leoni. Turning in one of her strongest performances to date, and looking perfectly natural in either flannel pajamas or a strapless gown, Leoni subtly adds credibility to the film’s broad, irregular premise. Her Kate does what Cage’s Jack can never do – she accepts the reality of their situation without ever forgetting thedreams she and Jack had when they stood at the airport gate years before.GRADE: BTHE EXTRAS:Packaged by Universal into a “”Collector’s Edition,”” the new “”Family Man”” disc comes brimming with extras that dive deeper into the charming film. The disc features three feature-length commentaries: one with Ratner and the film’s writers, one with producer Marc Abraham (who must consider this film his baby), and one with the film’s composerDanny Elfman. There are deleted scenes, outtakes that consist of Cage and Piven giggling like school girls, a Seal music video, and a montage of the phrase “”Hi Jack!”” You’ll understand after watching the film. There’s also an informative “”Spotlight On Location”” feature that splices several interviews with Ratner and Abraham together with clips fromthe film. The disc also features a choose-your-own-fate type word game that’s time consuming, and the results are disappointing. It’s like cracking open a fortune cookie with a sappy missive. Then, for those with DVD-ROM capability, the disc offers screensavers, wallpapers, and another game. GRADE: B+OVERALL EXPERIENCE:Sweet to a fault, “”Family Man”” is a heartwarming holiday charmer, that just won’t appeal to everyone. In other words, cynics and bitter old fogies, steer clear. While it might not replace “”It’s a Wonderful Life”” or “”A Christmas Story”” as a required Christmas classic, it’s an enjoyable family comedy that showcases Tea Leoni’s ample talents, and shows that Nic Cage still has some personality, which was in doubt. The extras are plentiful, and interesting. And the audio transfer of the film is top-notch. For fans, a good purchase.FINAL GRADE: B+