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The Weather Man

An Unseasonably Dreary Comedy/Drama

Directed by Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, The Ring), The Weather Man, a seriocomic character study of a despondent, downtrodden television weather man mired in a mid-life crisis, marks the second film in as many months to feature Nicholas Cage as an anxiety-ridden, and conscience-stricken character who addresses the audience periodically via voice over narration (the other film being Andrew Niccol's underrated Lord of War). Not surprisingly, The Weather Man suffers in comparison to Lord of War, mainly because it lacks a compelling storyline or a persuasive central conflict (or even one that helps to create a sympathetic lead character).

Professionally, David Spritz (Nicolas Cage), a weatherman for a Chicago news show, has a healthy salary and semi-respectable status (he's the repeated target of disgruntled viewers, who treat David as a portable garbage can). He lives alone in an antiseptic apartment building in an equally sterile apartment. Personally, David's life is an utter mess.

His ex-wife, Noreen (Hope Davis), seems to have moved on, but he hasn't. He does just as poorly with his disaffected children. Shelly (Gemmenne de la Peña) is an overweight, monosyllabic twelve-year old already showing signs of anti-social behavior (she curses profusely and smokes cigarettes). His confused, directionless teenage son, Mike (Nicholas Hoult), has been in and out of rehab, befriending a seemingly hip counselor, Don Bowden (Gil Bellows), as a surrogate father figure. Russ (Michael Rispoli), Noreen's boyfriend, hovers nearby, swooping in when, as expected, David's erratic, self-destructive behavior results in another blowout between David and Noreen.

David's ennui is, at least in part, sparked by his troubled, conflicted relationship with his father, Robert Spritzel (Michael Caine), an award-winning novelist in his twilight years and, in a TV-movie-of-the-week plot turn, facing a life-altering crisis. Robert, in turn, can't help but offer axioms, platitudes and a constant stream of relationship advice to his hapless, disoriented son. David listens attentively, hoping to both do the "right" thing and impress his father. Meanwhile, David has been invited to New York City to audition as the lead weatherman for "Hello America", a nationally broadcast morning program. This new gig promises David more money and an even higher social status, both of which he hopes to use to improve his personal life.

Screenwriter Scott Conrad (Wrestling Ernest Hemingway) deserves credit for taking the road less traveled, if not in the shallow family drama or David's inner conflict between his career and his family, then in the denouement that finds David taking a modest step or two toward personal growth, which allows him to accept that some relationships can be repaired and others can't.

Although The Weather Man contains a welcome share of dialogue-driven humor -- mostly of the protagonist commenting wryly on events, other characters, or his own failings -- The Weather Man slips all too often into family-style melodrama. Moreover, The Weather Man deserves censure for intrusive, ubiquitous, and unnecessary, product placement.

Hopefully, Nicholas Cage will pause before accepting the next film that employs voice over narration to convey the central character's inner thoughts and emotions. The use of voice over narration in Lord of War should have convinced Cage to reject one of the two roles. By the evidence on display, Cage should have rejected The Weather Man.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars