Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The Weather Man

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Nicolas Cage does melancholy like no one else, and the sun sure ain’t coming up tomorrow in this unfocused but not humorless big-studio take on grown-up misery. The Weather Man could pass for Charlie Brown: The Later Years — with Cage playing a sack so sad that if it weren’t for the occasional laugh theaters would have to pass out Paxil with the popcorn.

Cage’s David Spritz is a guy whose only success is in front of a green screen delivering the weather. When not churning out annoying TV news catchphrases, his off-camera life finds him socially inept, never getting it right, never kicking Lucy’s football, his every step a misstep.

This isn’t a TV news spoof à la Anchorman, and you won’t see Cage prancing around in his skivvies for chuckles. The Weather Man, rather, takes on darker subjects: suburban malaise, the dreariness of contemporary America, the failures of modern marriages.

Even though Spritz is on the brink of national success, his life is falling apart — his teen son is being treated for marijuana addiction, his pre-teen daughter is the target of bullies at school, and his wife (Hope Davis) has kicked him out of their gorgeous, enormous suburban Chicago home. Spritz feels like a failure in the eyes of his renowned, intellectual author father (Michael Caine).

With Pirates of the Caribbean, director Gore Verbinski made one of the most original studio films of 2003, and his quirky wit and eye for eccentricities are not missing from The Weather Man. But in an attempt to channel Sideways, Verbinski takes on too much, and tries to cover too much familial dysfunction and social commentary in one picture.

The Weather Man delivers brief flurries of brilliance, but this storm of melancholy is too scattered to hit really hard.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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