By George Bate
Face Off. The Rock. Con Air. Leaving Las Vegas. Nicolas Cage’s filmography is stacked with classic after classic and have made the famed actor a Hollywood icon and cult hero. It’s a testament to Cage’s draw as an entertainer than his name is still the centerpiece of some many conversations in 2022, making this is the perfect time to celebrate his career with a new theatrical release. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent sees Nicolas Cage play himself as he takes a millionaire (Pedro Pascal) up on an offer to attend his birthday party in Spain.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is the latest addition to the sub-genre of comedies in which actors play heightened versions of themselves. This is the End and Ricky Gervais’ Extras are more recent examples of how this premise can serve to deliver terrific comedic bits with a wink to the audience. And it’s with this point of uniqueness that The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent really excels. The movie stars Nicolas Cage, is about Nicolas Cage, features an iconic Nicolas Cage performance, and is an ultimate celebration of his career. Cage plays a version of himself that is certainly unusual, but never so unusual as to take audiences out of the film. The film is not meant to play like a movie where the audience is laughing along with a crazy Nic Cage performance, but, rather, a funny adventure story about a fictional Cage and a super-fan. Fans of Cage’s career will adore the myriad of references and Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film, all of which fit right in with the wild premise.
At the heart of the film is Cage’s relationship with Javi (played by Pedro Pascal), an aspiring screenwriter and millionaire who pays to have Cage spend time with him. It’s upon Pascal’s character’s introduction into the film that it truly kicks into another gear. Cage and Pascal have electric chemistry here. Their blossoming friendship is so genuine and heartfelt that it’s hard not to root for them. Pascal plays the role of a nervous fanboy to perfection and his adoration of Cage mirrors fans’ feelings toward the cult actor. In fact, this movie could have simply been about Cage and Pascal’s characters’ friendship and it would have been terrific on its own.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent doesn’t rest as a comedy about friends, however. It’s not soon after becoming friends with Pascal’s Javi that Cage is approached by CIA agents (Tiffany Hadish and Ike Barinholtz) to spy on his new friend, who secretly operates a criminal empire. This plot feels very much like The Interview, in which James Franco and Seth Rogen’s characters go to North Korea to interview Kim Jong-un, while engaging in a covert CIA operation to spy on the leader. At times, the two films overlap too much with Cage and Pascal’s friendship mirroring that of Franco and Randall Park’s Kim Jong-un. Nonetheless, this plot drives the movie forward and never ceases the entertain. It provides Cage with a series of tough decisions given his newfound friendship with Javi and the demands of the CIA.
Beyond Cage and Pascal’s bond, the film’s emotional core lies with Cage’s relationships with his wife and daughter. Although predictable, this arc is effective in giving Cage’s character a journey to go on that leads him to becoming a better person. It also provides for some great moments of humor with Cage’s obsession about movies and his career interfering with his family life.
The Unbearable Weight of Talent is extraordinarily entertaining, but, unfortunately, not extraordinarily funny. The movie features surprisingly few laugh-out-loud moments and would have benefitted from sharper, witty dialogue. In addition, fans hoping for a zany Nicolas Cage movie may leave feeling disappointed. This is by no means like The Wicker Man or Face Off or Outcast. Yes, Cage is most certainly Cage in this film and executes some hilarious moments, but it’s never as daring or out there as one might’ve hoped.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a lovely celebration of Nicolas Cage’s legendary career. Littered with references to the actor’s filmography, the film will no doubt please Cage’s cult fan base. Cage and Pascal’s chemistry is terrific and there is so much fun to be had as the audience follows along with their newfound friendship. Although not as funny or crazy as one might have hoped, Cage’s newest film is wildly entertaining and surprisingly emotional.