A mishmash of earlier and better-thought-out holiday fables, The Family Man is redeemed by the warm, emotional performances of leads Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni. Embodying elements of every great Christmas story, from Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol to It's a Wonderful Life (1946), the film wanders through "message film" territory with considerable charm and humor but without much focus or precision. Subplots involving the blue-collar job of main character Jack Campbell, his relationship to his boss/father-in-law (Harve Presnell), and a possible extramarital affair are set up then hastily abandoned. Troubling too is the script's repeated assertion that a loving, committed marriage with children is too at odds with career success for both to be enjoyed simultaneously. The Family Man seems to want especially badly to make a grand statement about the struggle to balance family and work, but its conclusion seems to be that one must always be sacrificed for the other, not a particularly cogent or sagacious argument. Director Brett Ratner has much greater success with his cast, drawing top-notch work particularly from Cage, an actor prone to explore bizarre character tics and personality nuances when left too much to his own devices, but who delivers a surprisingly sympathetic and heartfelt performance here. Leoni rounds out her big-screen resume with a tender, compassionate role that is a welcome contrast to the cool, austere career woman she portrayed in her most recent film, Deep Impact (1998).