This unusual take on It’s A Wonderful Life’s look at how the world would be different without you. Jack Campbell (Nicholas Cage), the president of a powerful Wall Street firm, is actually quite content with his life. He has just about everything he ever wanted, he has a job he loves, he is admired and respected by his coworkers and friends, he even knows how to appreciate the small things like witty banter and snowfall, he has no debilitating psychological problems. He’s single, but he justifies it with, “I took the road less traveled.” But after he intervenes to save the lives of innocent people in a corner store hold up…he makes the mistake of telling the robber (who appears to be an angel in disguise, played by the always great Don Cheadle) that he doesn’t need anything, he has everything he wants. He wakes up to find what life would be like if he hadn’t become a powerful executive but instead had married his college sweetheart. Managing a tire store, kids, living in Jersey. A slight difference to his worth is that unlike George Bailey the world at large seemed to have gone exactly the same…except that part around him. Him, his wife, his kids, it’s those small things. The things that matter and actually make up a life.
Half the fun is watching him adjust to his new middle class life. His adorable daughter who is convinced this man who replaced her father is an alien made to look like her dad…but it’s okay because he can make chocolate milk and has promised to not plant stuff in her brain. And then there are all the mistakes that he makes out of ignorance of what he should know about his alternate life. But of course the main highlight is him falling in love with his wife all over again, and making her love him, not just the memory of who she thinks he is.
And while we know he will finally learn what he was missing in not having a loving wife and a family we kind of do feel sorry for him that he has lost everything he has earned. Yes, because of the liberal media, we have an image of Wall Street execs as these heartless monsters who live to crush those below them. We all know when we stop to think logically that people on Wall Street are no better or worse than their middle and lower class counterparts (they have morons to geniuses, monsters to saints) but we seldom see the good depicted in the media. But it’s refreshing to see Jack Campbell depicted as not just human, but a good man, even before his switch. He knows people’s names and talks with them like equals, gives free advice, he even has an assistant whom he seems to encourage her to constantly insult him to keep him grounded…and, of course, moves to saves people’s lives when he is under no obligation. The movie has the great point that money isn’t evil nor a job unfulfilling…but even those are nothing compared to the joy of true love and a family.
This of course is the only good film ever made by director Bret Ratner…how such a terrible director created such a great movie, I’m not sure., but he did.
I know we could both go on with our lives and we’d both be fine, but I’ve seen what we could be like together. And I choose us.