The forecast calls for pain

“You know, you’re kind of a downer.”

“You know, you’re kind of a downer.”

Rated 2.0

Say this for The Weather Man: The sullen character at its center gets hit by milkshakes often, in a style that is both violent and vibrant. The sight of frozen, sugary dairy fluids splashing off of a man’s shoulder in this movie qualifies as great art.

That’s about the best thing you can say about the latest from director Gore Verbinski, maker of The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. The Weather Man plays like a dark comedy that should’ve been a nutty slapstick—or, better yet, never made.

Nicolas Cage stars as droopy weather guy David Spritz, a malcontent suffering from marital problems, career indifference, and a severe case of being a lousy poppa. Things are a mess with the family. His wife Noreen (Hope Davis) is seeing another man, and his daughter Shelly (Gemmenne de la Peña) is overweight and dubbed “Camel Toe” by her classmates. His son Mike (Nicholas Hoult) gets himself into trouble with a drug counselor (Gil Bellows) who fancies him, and to make things all the more downtrodden, David’s father Robert (Michael Caine) has just discovered his own advanced cancer.

Not all things are terrible for David. A morning news show is eyeing him for a slot on their national program produced in Manhattan. David sees it as an opportunity to boost his net worth, regain the respect of his estranged wife, and become a better father figure to his kids—yet the prospect amounts to more pressure than good tidings, so his depression continues. Before making the leap to the big time, he must resolve some major daddy issues, teach his daughter archery, and kick a certain drug counselor’s ass.

While the film has great visual moments, its story is not an engaging one. It’s really just another midlife-crisis movie. The story goes for laughs by lampooning the weather-guy routine, but its attempts at cleverness fall flat.

This is due in part to an underwhelming performance from Cage, who dials his emotional meter down to somber and basically stays there, save for the occasional outburst of temper. His characterization of David qualifies as so-so: not really bad, but not good either. That’s at least a new development for Cage, because his career’s been so uneven; usually he’s either great (Matchstick Men, Adaptation) or horrible (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Snake Eyes). Rarely does his work fall somewhere in between.

The supporting performances, aside from Davis doing her usual crabby routine, are pretty good. Peña is terrific as the young girl who wants to bow-hunt animals for unexplained reasons. Even without appearing much, Hoult delivers good stuff as the neglected son who still has plenty of kind words for his father. Caine, who was greatness in this year’s Batman Begins, delivers what’s arguably the film’s best performance as the stoic and understated dad, who wants his son to find more value in life. Perhaps they should’ve upped his screen time and called this one The Weather Man’s Far More Interesting Father.

Not surprisingly, Verbinski does come up with many moments that qualify as visual gems. The aforementioned milkshake calamities are classically funny, and it’s a shame they didn’t appear in a better movie. The sight of apple pies, tacos, and soda pops careening off Cage is always funny, and often filmed in extra-slow motion, making the moments all the more traumatic. Verbinski also throws in a sequence with SpongeBob SquarePants that is quite memorable.

These moments don’t amount to much of the total running time, which is consumed mostly by run-of-the-mill melodrama and malaise. The movie had an earlier release date postponed. One might’ve suspected the studio made that move to get the Cage performance out near the end of the year, when Oscar-contending films are usually released. In actuality, it seems that The Weather Man was postponed for an altogether different reason: It kind of stinks.