The running gag in The Weather Man is that quite often Chicago weatherman Dave Spritz (Cage) gets pelted with some type of food product, whether it is a burrito or a Frosty or a Slurpee. Spritz theorizes that it’s because the public views him as a clown, but I theorize that it’s a desperate attempt to generate any kind of interest in this excruciatingly droll and unhappy film.
Spritz appears to have it made professionally. He knows next to nothing about meteorology, but he is raking in a nice $240,000 a year for working what amounts to be about two hours a day. He is even on the short list of contenders for the meteorologist job opening on “Hello, America,” a nationally televised morning show starring Bryant Gumbel (who is given a very strange and unfunny cameo). How could the guy be so unhappy?
His family, that’s how. Spritz is separated from his wife, Noreen (Davis), and his children, Shelly (Pena) and Mike (Hoult). Shelly is a twelve-year-old girl who’s already smoking and definitely headed down the wrong path. 15-year-old Mike is already in counseling for smoking pot, and his counselor is a pedophile. On top of that, his father Robert (Caine) is terminally ill. Dave must try to repair his relationships, especially if he gets the “Hello, America” job and has to move to New York.
Screenwriter Steve Conrad appears to be trying to win over the audience with profanity and flat-out weirdness, but it is to no avail. The whole family cusses a lot in the hopes that you will laugh, and a subplot involving Shelly being called “camel toe” at school is just wrong and completely devoid of any humor. Even more uncomfortable are the scenes involving Mike’s pedophile counselor, and his comeuppance doesn’t get nearly the reaction it deserves since the details of the subplot are all but abandoned during the meat of the film. Despite the stunning unevenness and reliance on strong language, a few scenes do work, particularly early on when Dave is in line at the BMV.
Nicolas Cage is a veteran of this type of brittle humor and he does what he can with his dorko haircut and miserable demeanor. You do feel a bit sorry for him, as I do when parents simply cannot connect with their children. He truly does want to make them happy, and he even resorts to doing what the most desperate of parents do when they cannot please their kids – he buys them material possessions. Cage has always been a versatile actor, and he sifts through the screenplay to deliver a nice performance. Michael Caine looks tired and uncomfortable delivering his oftentimes filthy lines, and for good reason. Hope Davis is a fantastic actress for whom I continually hope will get her due someday, and here she is criminally wasted as a one-dimensional unhappy wife who nitpicks everything (the scene involving Dave forgetting to get tartar sauce for their take-out dinner is painful on all the senses).
Who is this movie made for? I confess I do not know. I’m not sure what the market is like for R-rated dramas about dysfunctional families with an unpleasant sexual undertone. I think enough people live that out in real life as is. The Weather Man will most likely suffer the fate of the weather itself: it will come and go, then be forgotten.
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Length: 102 Minutes
Rating: R for strong language and sexual content.
Theatrical Release: October 28, 2005
Directed by: Gore Verbinski
Written by: Steve Conrad
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Hope Davis, Gemmenne de la Peña, Nicholas Hoult, Michael Rispoli