Dave Spritz is a weatherman for a Chicago TV station. And his life is as gray as the sullen Chicago winter forecast he dutifully delivers.
Despite working only two hours a day reading a teleprompter and pocketing $240K a year for doing so, Dave's life is a mess. His chronic self-absorption, blame-deflecting lies and laissez-faire attitude have already cost him his marriage. And his two children, 15-year-old Mike and 12-year-old Shelly, are not faring well in the aftermath of divorce. (Mike is in rehab for marijuana addiction, while overweight Shelly bears the brunt of cruel junior high jokes and secretly smokes.)
To top it off, Dave is regularly pelted with fast-food castoffs—shakes, sandwiches, drinks—derisively pitched at him (and landing unerringly on his left lapel) by disgruntled viewers.
The one ray of hope in Dave's melancholy life is a shot at the big time: serving as weather man for the nationally broadcast morning show Hello America. Even as he pursues that dream, however, things go from bad to worse when his father learns he's dying of lymphoma. Desperate to earn his father's approval before the older man passes away, Dave redoubles his efforts to make the most of his life (professionally and personally), learning what it means to enter into his children's struggles even as he faces his own.
Initially we see that Dave has not done well by his family—his wife has left him because of his insensitive and detached behavior—but he's starting to wake up to the fact that his presence matters to his kids. He's far from being a perfect dad, but Dave tries to make up for lost time by engaging with Shelly and Mike.
Shelly has been taking dance lessons, but her weight makes it a poor fit for her. Dave asks her what she'd like to pursue as a hobby, and she says ... archery. Dave doesn't laugh at her. He promptly drives her to an archery school to begin taking lessons. Later, he invites his daughter to the company Christmas gathering (held at a downtown, outdoor ice rink) where the pair participate in a three-legged ice skating race. They fall down, but Dad encourages Shelly to not quit, telling her that finishing the race—even dead last—matters. Dave also takes Shelly with him an a trip to New York City, where they go shopping. He's determined to fill her closet with hip, modest clothes that will help deflect the body-oriented insults she's been receiving at school.
Meanwhile, when Mike claims one of the counselors at his rehab program tried to molest him, Dave never questions his son's story and comes to his defense. His response—beating up the man responsible—is illegal and inappropriate, but it reveals how deep his love is for his son. (And you can see in Mike's eyes that he hears it loud and clear.)
Dave's relationship with his father is more complex. Robert loves his son, but he can't understand why Dave's wife left him, why his kids are making terrible choices and why Dave swears so much when he's angry. And he makes a point of telling his son so. (Sometimes to good effect; other times he just seems rude.) One of his pearls of wisdom goes, "To get anything of value in life, you have to sacrifice. The hard thing and the right thing are usually the same." Dave desperately longs for his father's approval. And eventually, both men are able to express something approximating acceptance for one another, though it's a rocky road to that place.
Dave wants another shot at making things work with his ex-wife, Noreen. The pair goes to therapy together, but it ends disastrously. Nevertheless, he keeps trying to make things work. He messes up most of his attempts, but he should get props for bothering at all.
Though Shelly ends up rejecting archery as a hobby, Dave takes to it. At first his aim is terrible, but in time he becomes a proficient marksman with the bow. His improving aim serves as a visual metaphor for him getting his life on track.
Dave's verbal musings indicate that he frequently uses his celebrity status to pick up women. One shown situation features a graphic sex scene that includes sexual motions and breast nudity.
Shelly wears pants that are too tight—and she's unaware of it—earning her a crude nickname related to her genitals. A brief, flashing scene shows examples of three other women whose pants (or panties) are also revealingly tight.
Mike's drug-rehab counselor takes advantage of his relationship with the young man by luring him into sexually abusive situations. When Mike begins talking about lifting weights at dinner at the counselor's house, the older man asks him to take his shirt off so he can do "before and after" pictures. The counselor eagerly snaps many pictures of the boy in a very creepy scene. Later we learn (but thankfully don't see) that the counselor has tried to force Mike into an act of oral sex.
In group therapy, Dave confesses an Internet porn habit. Walking down the street (in a flashback before he's divorced), Dave's inner monologue informs us—in explicit detail—that he's fantasizing about the backside of a woman he's standing behind. He also has stray thoughts about his own sexual body parts. References are made to masturbation and sex toys.
Dave and Noreen have a heated—and once again explicit—argument about Dave's frustration with Noreen's "lack of enthusiasm" for performing oral sex on him. The quarrel concludes as they realize Shelly has been listening to the whole thing.
Dave confronts Mike's counselor about the abuse he's perpetrated upon his son, then beats him up, leaving the man's nose and lips bleeding. Dave's hands are bruised and bloody as well after the melee, and he brags to his son about what he did. The movie doesn't depict any consequence for this assault.
Fed up with passersby hurling fast food at him, Dave chases down a car and rubs apple pie in the face of the guy who nailed him with it. Dave slaps Noreen's new love interest, Russ, in the face with his gloves. Later, he aims his drawn bow at Russ, and it's unclear how serious he is about possibly shooting the man—definitely a tense scene.
Crude or Profane Language
Mike's counselor intentionally uses the f-word to earn the boy's acceptance. And the f-word gets used a lot by other characters as well—at least 50 times. Characters take God's or Jesus' names in vain five times (including two uses of "g--d--n"), and use the s-word roughly 10 times. Slang references to sexual organs (of both genders) occurs at least half-a-dozen times, including two instances of the c-word (said by a middle schooler).
Drug and Alcohol Content
Mike is never seen smoking marijuana despite all the talk about his addiction. Shelly secretly buys cigarettes from a convenience store clerk who's willing to sell them to her, even though she's obviously underage. She and a friend light up, as does Russ. Mike's counselor serves the youngster what looks like a can of beer. Dave gets drunk in his hotel room in New York while his daughter sleeps. A character in a novel Dave is writing talks about drinking Scotch.
Other Negative Elements
Dave's relationship with Noreen is a stormy one that often has the couple spewing profanity at one another in front of their children. Dave's habitual forms of conflict "resolution" are either to deflect blame by lying or to begin swearing at the person he's arguing with.
Fans often recognize Dave, but he usually treats them with cool disdain—a response that continually degenerates into heated arguments. One man tells him, "You're on TV, bro. You're on TV. Go work at a bank if you don't want to be cool to people." And then the vulgarities start flying.
The Weather Man might best be described as a tragedy fueled by heedless secularism. As Dave's disastrous life—and the lives of his family members—deteriorate, he struggles to make sense of what's happening. And he simply can't do it, even after he begins to invest, if somewhat clumsily, in the lives of his son and daughter, his ex-wife and his father. That's when it becomes apparent that his attempts to find significance in life and repair the damage he's done don't acknowledge any of the spiritual realities that might actually enable him to make some sense of the chaos of his life.
The movie does offer a redemptive message about perseverance when life is tough, as we see real growth in Dave's ability to commit to relationships with his kids. But that positive theme is still quite shallow and hopeless as it's stripped of a faith-informed worldview.
The other dose of rain and sleet in The Weather Man is how it is so thoroughly battered by a storm of profanity and graphic, demeaning representations of sex—both visually and in several sequences of shocking dialogue. Such no-holds-barred storytelling may currently be in vogue in Hollywood, and the boundaries of what's considered "acceptable" in R-rated movies may be lurching into ever-more vulgar territory, but such cultural relativity doesn't prevent it from objectively obliterating whatever virtues this story about a broken man and his broken family might illustrate.