Review by Sean Boelman
Nicolas Cage is arguably one of the most “no shits given” actors in Hollywood, with a filmography that has brought him both an Academy Award win and several Razzie nominations. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is maybe his weirdest career choice yet, but it’s one that will pay off, a natural progression of the Cage-issance that fans will love and may even convert the uninitiated to the cult of Nic Cage.
In the movie, Cage plays himself as a struggling actor who is being turned down from the roles he wants, forcing him to take a gig appearing at a megafan’s birthday party, only to get recruited by the CIA when it is revealed that the fan is a drug kingpin. It’s an exaggerated, ridiculous story, but it’s fitting as a parody of what much of Cage’s output has been in recent years.
Although the meta aspects here are entertaining, those hoping that this would be something along the lines of Adaptation (or more accurately, Being John Malkovich) will be disappointed. In reality, this is a pretty standard studio comedy, albeit one of the funniest and smartest in recent memory.
There have been several showbiz industry satires that have explored these same theme — the fading relevance of a former movie star — much more effectively (the last two entries of Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip series come to mind), but the very heartfelt approach to Cage’s character makes this particularly endearing.
Many of the jokes in the script are exactly what one would expect from a heavily self-referential film about Nicolas Cage. There are a lot of jokes about Cage’s filmography, and Cage plays a hyperbolic version of his typically enigmatic self. And while the focus is on his comedic timing, which is excellent, there is also a lot of vulnerability in this role.
It’s a celebration of all of the great things that Cage has done in his career, but it would have been nice to see the movie also poke fun at some of the mistakes that he has made. There are some one-off jokes to some duds, like one Wicker Man joke that is pretty funny, but for this to have been a truly excellent self-parody, he would have needed to roast himself a bit harder.
The biggest surprise of the film is how well Pedro Pascal holds his own against Cage. We already knew that Pascal was a great actor, but the fact that he can shine in a movie that is literally a tribute to its lead shows just how talented he is. Although the script (rightfully) gives the biggest laughs to Cage, Pascal gets more than a few moments that flex his comedic chops. His chemistry with Cage is also exceptional, and makes the movie even more effective.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent may not go as all-in with the meta absurdity that people were likely hoping for, but it’s still one of the finest studio comedies yet in the new decade. It works because of Cage’s iconic ridiculousness, making it something that you absolutely have to see.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent hits theaters on April 22.