Film / The Family Man

The Family Man is a 2000 film directed by Brett Ratner and starring Nicolas Cage, Tea Leoni and Don Cheadle in which Cage plays Jack Campbell, a wealthy Wall Street executive who hears from his old college girlfriend and wonders what might have been. He has a fateful meeting with a man who magically sends him to an Alternate Universe where he married his college girlfriend.

The film is similar to It's a Wonderful Life because it starts on Christmas Eve. Moreover, by the end, Jack learns that living a quiet happy family life is preferable to achieving success and wealth at work.

Not to be confused with the Family Guy. Also, the Alternate Universe Jack Campbell goes straight to this trope and the film title.

This film includes examples of:

  • Book-Ends: The film begins and ends at an airport.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Jack Campbell's boss kinda comes across as much, he even jokes about the idea.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Jack Campbell.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted by the end of the film.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Family Man: A successful but lonely businessman who has a What If? scenario in which he has a family with his ex-girlfriend from college instead being a successful man he's now.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: Cash dumps Jack into an alternate life with no information whatsoever about his life, job, etc. So Kate thinks right away that Jack is acting horribly when he forgets their anniversary, doesn't know how to communicate with her, etc. Part of it is that Jack just wants to get back to his own life (initially), but it also stems from the fact he simply doesn't know anything about this new life.
  • For Want of a Nail: The entire meaning of Jack's alternate life, or glimpse. What if he stayed with his girlfriend Kate in the United States rather than travel to London to jumpstart his career in finance?
  • Heel–Face Turn: Jack, though he wasn't a really evil guy to begin with.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: An Inversion. Jack is shown how much fuller and happier his life would be had he stayed with his girlfriend after college rather than moving to London and starting his rich-but-lonely life and career as a high-powered stockbroker.
  • Lonely at the Top: Jack's life after moving to London in 1987, although he doesn't realize it until he's shown what might have been had he not embarked on his high-powered Wall Street career.
  • Magical Negro: Cash is the black man who sends Jack to a What If? universe to show him what his life might have been if he had taken different choices. It's never stated, though implied, that he's a Jack's guardian angel.
  • Married to the Job: In Jack's original life, he didn't really have anything outside of his job as a high-level Wall Street executive. He even spends Christmas Night alone because he doesn't have anywhere to go. His boss plays this straight too, though he proudly claims that it's because he's simply a heartless bastard.
  • Mistaken for Aliens: Annie thinks Jack is an alien who has taken the place of her real father. Jack runs with it so she will help him assimilate to his new life.
    Annie: Welcome to Earth.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Tea Leoni's shower scene. Doubles as a CMoF when Jack is taken aback by seeing her nude.
  • Opinion-Changing Dream: A mysterious man named Cash shows Jack an alternate life where he chose to start a family with his college girlfriend Kate rather than become a Wall Street executive who doesn't yet realize he's Lonely at the Top. Cash describes this as a "glimpse" and thus only temporary, but Jack does wake up in the same place and time before the glimpse began, his downtown bachelor's apartment. The experience leads him to track down Kate and reconnect with her after by giving a heartfelt description of the life he saw they had together.
  • Precision F-Strike: During Arnie's What the Hell, Hero? scene.
  • The Scrooge: Jack Campbell, before he got better.
  • Smug Snake: The alternate version of Alan Mintz.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jack gets one from his alternate-universe buddy Arnie when Jack wants to have a fling with another woman coming onto him (Jack thinks this is OK because this isn't his life, so Kate isn't really his wife). Arnie reminds him how much all of his friends are envious that Jack is happily married to someone like Kate and that he shouldn't "fuck up" the best thing to ever happen to him.