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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

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What it’s about:

After failing to land the movie role that would pivot his declining acting career, this fictionalized version of Nicolas Cage (played by Nicolas Cage) must accept a $1 million job to attend the birthday party of super fan and international criminal Javi Gutierrez. Things take a turn when the CIA recruits Cage to help bring down Javi without, of course, blowing his own cover.

Names you might know:

Obviously, this is primarily a vehicle for Nicolas Cage, but it also stars Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian), Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser, M.D. and The Matrix: Revolutions), and Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip).

Why it’s worth your time:

If, like me, you are kind of bummed that Nicolas Cage didn’t get nominated for his great performance in PIG, you’ll be excited to know that he has gifted audiences with this masterful performance in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. He stars in the film as a fictionalized, exaggerated version of himself, and nails it. I mean this is the same guy who did a movie about a mysterious stranger locked in an entertainment pizza parlor and fought possessed animatronic mascots with very few lines and still made it interesting. The movie is called Willy Wonderland, by the way, and it came out in 2021 if you’re interested.

Lionsgate

From Con Air to Guarding Tess, scenes from Cage’s previous movies are either re-enacted by other actors in the film or shown as snippets on television. I found these moments nostalgic and also a reminder of how awesome an actor he is. Honestly, I imagine it to be how some of Cage’s fans would really act if they were to meet him. I know I would probably recite one of his scenes from Face/Off.

When it comes to portraying Cage’s number-one fan, Pedro Pascal is phenomenal. His portrayal of wealthy kingpin Javi Gutierrez, is so compelling that I forgot he was Pedro Pascal. From his mannerisms and the sincerity of his words to the look in his eyes when he confesses his admiration of Cage, Pascal made me believe he was fully tapped into this character. Then again, Pascal has shown his talents as an actor by winning over Star Wars fans while wearing a helmet 95 percent of the time in The Mandalorian.

The “bromance” that develops between the two characters is believable, and their love for storytelling creates a bond Cage cannot resist. The chemistry between Cage and Pascal leaves you no choice but to find their characters’ friendship adorable. Even with their newfound relationship in jeopardy because of the CIA’s involvement, their bond seems unbreakable, but it is tested in the third act.

Lionsgate

Cage also takes on another role in the film—an imaginary younger version of himself named Nicky (kudos to the de-aging CGI used in the film). Nicky is obsessed with fame and finding the next big gig that will shoot him back into stardom. He’s carefree and preys on Cage’s insecurities while encouraging him to obsessively look for bigger roles. Nicky is part Castor Troy from Face/Off and part Little Junior from Kiss of Death.

Although their appearances are brief, Tiffany Haddish and Irk Barinholtz as CIA agents and Neil Patrick Harris as Cage’s agent provide even more laughs. The most hilarious moments, in my opinion, are Cage’s interactions with them and his attempts to perform espionage missions despite having no practical experience or skills. His talent especially shines later in the film, when he must pretend to be an infamous drug lord.

The action scenes are impressive but campy and, like most of the film, very tongue in cheek. I’d would say the action is comparable to Naked Gun or Hot Shots Part Deux. It’s that level of silliness, which fits with the tone throughout. There are a few parts of the movie when Nicolas and Javi should not have survived, but what fun would it be if they were killed?

Writers Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten do a great job of creating this fictionalized version of Cage and provide well-paced comic scenes. But the story isn’t all just played for laughs. There’s also an interesting thread about Cage’s broken relationship with his ex-wife and daughter that hits the right emotional chords. Cage has said he wasn’t initially interested in portraying himself, but after reading the script he was impressed enough to sign onto the film. After watching it, I can see why and I think other viewers will too.

The takeaway:

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a fun time filled with impressive acting by Pedro Pascal, Nicolas Cage, and some high-profile supporting players. Between the laughs, heartfelt moments, and action, this flick checks off all the genres in Cage’s filmography.

Watch it with:

Fans of Nicolas Cage, of course!

Worth noting:

This is co-writer Kevin Etten’s first feature writing gig. He previously served as producer and writer for Scrubs, Late Night with David Letterman, and Desperate Housewives.

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