Yes, Hi, Hello: Might I Direct You to the “Family Man” Website from 2001?
Nic Cage movies (and romantic regrets) are timeless, but web design is not.
I guess the first thing I should tell you is that despite the fact that I happened to find myself on the original Family Man website in this, the year of our (one true) lord two thousand and sixteen, I actually haven’t seen the movie in many years. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve really seen it at all, but I do have a faint recollection of watching it on HBO or something like that as a pre-teen, drawn—as most pre-teens are wont to be—by the magnetic force of one Nicolas Cage…and maybe also by the MPAA’s promise of some good ol’ fashioned PG-13 “sensuality.” Pre–high speed Internet, what can I say.
The movie obviously did not make a big impact on me (or on many critics) at the time, but it just flew back onto my radar due to the fact that it was recently added to Netflix, and because I happen to subscribe to the less-than-literal “Best of Netflix” subreddit—where I was alerted to the movie’s arrival. Naturally, since I make poor choices and am constantly on the lookout for a new Nic Cage movie to watch, I clicked on the thread to see what people were saying.
There were the requisite comments about still having a crush on Téa Leoni from her Bad Boys days, and the surprisingly predominant opinion that The Family Man is better than its reputation (at least several people claim to watch it every Christmas), but there was one comment in particular that caught my eye. It was from someone calling attention—apropos of nothing—to the fact that not only does the original Family Man website still exist, but that it’s an absolute fucking trainwreck.
Draped across a graceful blanket of clunky white space, the home screen is a marvel itself, seemingly created solely to provide a landing place for a very uncompelling list of pull quotes from reviews (“Oscar winner Nicolas Cage is very funny!”), and to send people to a flash version of the vintage, “Rob-Schneider-is-a-carrot”–style trailer. It’s a total time machine. One click, and I was back to sitting in front one of those gigantic iMacs that they had in the computer lab at school. You know, the one where you would play Nanosaur even though it was terrible just because it was the only game on the computer? Yeah, that one.
Anyway, it would be tempting to stop there, but that would be a mistake, because the real (national) treasure of this website is found further within. Difficult as it may be, skip through that trailer and head to the next screen. Once you’re there, don’t be distracted by the “Ultimate Family Man Vacation” prize package (still waiting on that update, Universal!), and instead I want to point your attention to the top-right of your screen—to the “Find a Friend” tab.
In what I can only imagine was one of those cases of “if we don’t use the budget completely we’ll get less next time,” the marketing team appears to have spent actual time and resources creating an adorable—and honestly kinda tragic—forum for people to post messages to long-lost friends and lovers. Yes, that’s right: real human beings with real, paying jobs thought that it was possible for someone to leave a note for their personal Téa Leoni on the Family Man website, and for those IRL Téa Leonis to see it because they also went on the Family Man website and looked through all the names.
Sadly, the actual forum is now broken, so we’ve been robbed of the experience of looking through the list and crying. All we have left is the example e-mail, which may serve as a brief window into how bleak this project really was, regardless. (JoeBob@aol.com, I do hope you find your Téa Leoni.)
A few days after I found this goldmine, I decided to go back to the Reddit thread where it all started, and it was then that I saw that the person who initially brought up the website in the first place had mysteriously and inexplicably deleted their comment. They clearly weren’t being harassed or anything, so I truly have no idea what the motivation was for doing that. It’s funny, the Internet. Sometimes the digital theatrics you notice on it feel like living in some new age–y Jimmy Stewart movie. Or maybe like a slightly less new age–y Nic Cage movie (which I would gladly take). Or maybe I’m just thinking of the scenes in Something’s Gotta Give where Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson talk on the computer. Hard to say.
Before I went through this honest-to-God experience, I was casually planning on watching The Family Man again/for the first time/whatever. The praise for it in that thread was earnest and unsolicited, and given my proclivity for glorifying and agonizing over past relationships, it seemed like a fun way to royally fuck my emotional shit up on a random Wednesday night. But after spending time with this site… Nah, man. I’m good. Just do me a favor, though, will ya? Wake me when National Treasure 3 is ready.