The wind chill factor is off the scale in Gore Verbinski's latest effort, a bleak character study that wallows in the same self-pitying funk that besets its morose, life-hating anti-hero. It certainly seems an odd fit for Nicolas Cage, an actor who generally chooses roles that exploit his unpredictable energy and kooky charisma. And so it proves, as the Lord Of War star struggles to get a handle on a drearily one-note protagonist who is more a compilation of mid-life neuroses than a fully-rounded, convincing creation.
With a high-profile job as a telly meteorologist netting him a cool $240,000 a year, you'd think David Spritz would be satisfied with his lot. But professional success has come at a heavy personal price, the breakdown of his marriage and his estrangement from his kids making it impossible to enjoy his achievements. His father, whom Michael Caine manages to invest with an affecting world-weary dignity, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who regards his son's choice of career with withering - or possibly 'weathering' - disdain. Oh, and then there are all those disgruntled viewers who pelt him with fast food just because he's on TV; a bit like in Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry harangues the golfing meteorologist.
As David surveys the emotional debris surrounding him, it's clear Verbinski wants us to sympathise with his existential plight. Unfortunately, we're far more likely to join the food-flinging multitudes instead. Paul Giamatti played a similar saddo in Sideways, but managed to filter his melancholy through enough comic irascibility to make him worth sticking with. Here, however, you can only agree with Cage's ex-wife Hope Davis when she labels him a "champion asshole" - if only because there's so little evidence to the contrary.
Davis' sourness is reflected in a script that, when not wringing cheap pathos out of Caine's incurable cancer, gets cruel laughs by poking fun at Cage's chubby daughter or his son's attempts to fend off a paedophiliac counsellor (Gil Bellows). And while at one point in Verbinski's film Cage's character takes up archery, scoring bullseye after bullseye on a snowbound practice range, in all other respects The Weather Man is woefully off target.