Joel Schumacher's one good film is 1993's dark, witty Falling Down, which chronicles a day in the life of an ordinary man (Michael Douglas) who goes crazy when he realizes that everything is bullshit. It's too bad that Schumacher followed it up with adaptations of John Grisham novels and Batman & Robin.

Gore Verbinski, the director of The Weather Man, is no Schumacher—yet. He's had a couple of populist hits—Pirates of the Caribbean, The Ring—and signs point to him embracing comfortable blockbusters. (He's currently filming two sequels to Pirates.) It's too bad, because The Weather Man is neither populist nor comfortable, nor does it feature Johnny Depp as fey buccaneer. It is, however, surprisingly good.

Nicolas Cage plays milquetoasty Chicago weatherman David Spritz. A disappointment to his novelist father (Michael Caine), David struggles to maintain relationships with his surly daughter, troublemaker son, and angry ex-wife (Hope Davis). Sure, David's angling for a job on Bryant Gumbel's morning show, but he's consistently reminded of how he's already fucked up his current life.

Maybe it's the bland marketing campaign, or the presence of Verbinski, but I expected The Weather Man to be a so-so midlife angst story, targeted at and satisfying mainstream Americans who hit the multiplex after a meal at McDonalds. But instead, The Weather Man skewers that very demographic—and turns out to be a fairly intelligent and acerbically funny examination of self-loathing, familial relationships, and unaccomplished goals.

There are some rotten moments here—like an unnecessary subplot (that involves pederasty, of all things). The Weather Man isn't perfect, but in its measured, confident, and disconcertingly accurate take on modern American life, it's a good sight better than one would expect. It'll be interesting to see what Verbinski does next—hopefully, it'll be along the lines of The Weather Man, and not, say, Adventures with Fey Buccaneers, Vol. IV.