There aren't any cannons or explosions (at least of the gunpowder kind) in Gore Verbinski's first post-Pirates of the Caribbean film. And that suits the soft-spoken director just fine. ''[After Pirates] I just wanted to turn down the amplitude and do a film that dealt with characters on a more human level,'' says Verbinski, who ultimately found his Everyman story line in Steven Conrad's dark and slightly surreal family drama.
The writer's second screenplay in over a decade Verbinski hypothesizes, ''I think he had his taste of Hollywood [with 1993's Wrestling Ernest Hemingway] and it took 12 years for him to clean his palate'' the film revolves around Nicolas Cage's morose weather prognosticator Dave Spritz. A divorced father of two and frequent target of Big Gulp-throwing passersby, the Chicago-based on-air personality finally sees a way to escape the mediocrity of his life when he's offered a big-time job opportunity. Less than happy for Dave, however, are his ailing, Pulitzer Prize-winning father (Michael Caine), his soon-to-be-remarried ex-wife (Hope Davis), and his precocious kids one of whom bizarrely hooks her dad on archery throughout the course of the film. ''He was actually getting too good at it,'' laughs Verbinski of Cage's bow-and-arrow skills. ''When we filmed the scenes where he was learning how to shoot, we had to intentionally make it look like he didn't know what he was doing.''