Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

The weatherman often is the news’s sixth man — off the bench in a niche role.

That alone bothers Dave Spritz (Nicolas Cage), who hacked two letters from his name for a cornball TV moniker. But he’s not even a meteorologist. He’s just a mediocrity.

Intended as director Gore Verbinski’s palate cleanser before Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, 2005’s The Weather Man is an apprehensive cringe comedy of male malaise.

It’s also Verbinski’s best film, a small-scale challenge he should attempt more often that’s stuffed with scathing sad-sack situations scripted by The Promotion’s Steve Conrad (such as Dave’s aborted “Like a Rock” speech for his father).

Dave is a self-destructive worrywart who seemingly lucked into his Chicago-weatherman job. Separated from his wife and distanced from his kids, Dave pursues a national-news position — which he sees as a family cure-all and way to ease his self-imposed inferiority complex spurred by his successful-novelist father Robert (Michael Caine, masterful even in brief scenes).

Dave is a chump with a plastered-on smile, but Cage makes his karmic anguish fascinating. Aloof, obsessively competitive and selfish, he’d be insufferable were he not actively addressing his kids’ best interests, however incorrectly.

Much is exaggerated for comic effect, but not the human way Dave wrestles with insecurity and entitlement to be the father he thinks he should be.

For those left with a sour taste from Cage’s The Family Man, this unsung gem turns that genial what-if on its ear  — an arctic, acidic look at discontentment, ennui and self-loathing.