The Weather Man (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you read our site regularly, you know that our essays are not usually about whether movies are "good" or "bad." Oh, there are some films which are just plain bad, but with those few exceptions, most movies constructed by professional filmmakers are considered "good" by a fairly sizeable number of people. Some films have a broader appeal than others, of course, but that does not make them better. Indeed, one might argue that quite the opposite is true - that a very broad audience indicates that a film panders to the lowest common denominator.

That may or may not be true, but is outside the purview of today's discussion, which centers on identifying the audience for The Weather Man. I think I can do that quite accurately, because it has a very specific target market. I was first led to the identification of that market by the IMDb "external review" page. I was curious about Mr. Cranky's reaction to this film, and I looked for his review - unsuccessfully. In its normal place was a review from Mr. Smiley. Mr Smiley, who up until recently had been Cranky, loved the film because, "This film is actually filmed in Chicago, and to be perfectly honest, I just love Chicago so much that a movie could be about beating kittens to death and I'd still love it if the Chicago scenery were good because I'd sit in the theater and point and grin and think to myself "ooh, I've been there." What Cranky/Smiley didn't mention is that Chicago not only played the part of Chicago, but also played the part of New York late in the film, when the lead character took a job in The Big Apple and got to appear in the Macy's parade - which actually went past Marshall Fields!

I didn't think much about it at the time, since it was obvious that Cranky's review was ironic, but I soon realized that he was definitely onto something with that Chicago point. I went to the Metacritic page and noticed that the film's three best reviews are from the only three Chicago critics. Here's the critical average at that page:


group average score four star equivalent
Chicago Critics 85.3  /100 three and a half stars
New York critics 45.8  /100 less than two stars
other critics 62.8  /100 two and a half stars

That's a very large difference. The average critic basically said, "Two and a half stars - not bad enough to pan, not good enough to recommend." Chicago critics basically said, "Three and a half stars" - near genius." (For the record, Richard Roeper, who is not covered by Metacritic, also gave it a "thumb up"!) New York critics said, "Not even two stars - basically horseshit." So it seems to me that the audience for the film is quite evident: film critics from Chicago. To be fair, let me point out that other people might like this film as well. I would also recommend it for film critics from Evanston and Joliet, possibly even those in Kenosha, Wisconsin or Gary, Indiana.

If you aren't a film critic, you might consider using Alexander Payne films as your guideline. The Weather Man is about a man who is deeply disappointed with the outcome of his life, and expresses that disappointment in a series of interior monologues in which he talks sincerely to the audience, or maybe to himself. Jack Nicholson did this in About Schmidt; Matthew Broderick in Election; Nic Cage in The Weather Man. In each case, the narrator is not an especially likeable character and he expresses ideas with which we cannot sympathize. In each case, the character is somewhat pathetic, but not an absolute loser. In each case, the film is supposed to be a comedy, but will probably leave you in a sad mood as you exit the theater.

Here's my theory:

  • Find 100 people who don't know anything about directors.
  • Show them Election, About Schmidt and The Weather Man.
  • Tell them two of the films were directed by the same man, but the third was directed by someone else. Ask them to choose the "odd man out."

I'm pretty sure that The Weather Man would get picked by no more people than the other two. It's a Payne film without Payne. The IMDb scores are also similar: Election 7.4, About Schmidt 7.3, The Weather Man 7.1. All good films, all worthwhile, although none masterpieces. None of them reached a very broad audience. If you liked the other two, you'll probably like The Weather Man as well.

For the record, I liked The Weather Man better than I like those two Payne movies. Two reasons.

  • First, the central character is not totally self-deluded. This one fact closes some of the infinite distance that Payne always puts between the audience and his central characters. We look down on and feel sorry for Payne's protagonists, but Steve Conrad's script for this film is subtle enough that the audience can relate to the Cage character even though he is kind of an asshole. Although Cage's Weather Man is basically a superficial douchebag, he knows of his failings, and hopes to change himself. Furthermore, he realizes that he can't accomplish anything instantly, nor ever completely overcome his inherent douchebaggery, yet he can still improve and strive to be a better person. In other words there will be no magical Hollywood or Dickensian redemption for the character. We are not left thinking his life will turn around, but we do feel that he will make some hard and selfless choices in the future instead of always thinking only of himself and taking the easy way out.
  • Second, the wise, centering presence of Michael Caine provides the audience with an emotional door into the film. That portal is something which I really miss in Payne's smart-ass films, in which we tend to learn that nearly every human being is essentially despicable.


  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced
  • There are five featurettes:
    • Extended Outlook: The Script
    • Forecast: Becoming a Weatherman
    • Atmospheric Pressure: The Style and Pallette
    • Relative Humidity: The Characters
    • Trade Winds: The Collaboration



Robyn Moler shows her enormous chest as a "beer girl" who has a hot casual sex scene with Cage.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: three and a quarter. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $22 million for production. It grossed $12 million. The widest distribution was 1500 theaters.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C+, a very good movie, but targeted at a highly selected audience.

Return to the Movie House home page