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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent Movie Review

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) movie poster
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Theatrical Release: April 22, 2022 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Tom Gormican / Writers: Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten

Cast: Nicolas Cage (Nick Cage), Pedro Pascal (Javi Gutierrez), Tiffany Hadidsh (Vivian), Neil Patrick Harris (Richard Fink), Sharon Horgan (Olivia), Ike Barinholtz (Martin), Alessandra Mastronardi (Gabriela), Jacob Scipio (Carlos), Lily Sheen (Addy), Paco Leon (Lucas Gutierrez), Joanna Bobin (Cheryl), David Gordon Green (Director), Demi Moore (Herself/Movie Olivia)


There is something immensely fascinating about the life, career, and very nature of Nicolas Cage. Every Hollywood actor of renown experiences a rise and fall in stature over time, but not many inspire memes and "Saturday Night Live" sketches. Others have endured comparable highs and lows, from winning the Academy Award for Best Actor to slumming in a series of direct-to-video payouts. But of those subjected to such extremes, only Cage has also been set up for a redemption narrative on a near-yearly basis.

Cage’s filmography is longer than most but it tells the compelling full story. He got his start in the early ‘80s as a beneficiary of accomplished filmmaker uncle Francis Ford Coppola, who cast him in several movies despite him shedding the famous family surname. By the start of the ‘90s, Cage had worked with other respected directors including the Coen brothers (Raising Arizona), Norman Jewison (Moonstruck), and David Lynch (Wild at Heart). The Oscar win for his turn as a screenwriter resigned to drink himself to death in 1995’s Leaving Las Vegas curiously led Cage to A-list action hero status, something he enjoyed for the better part of two decades, headlining hits like The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Gone in 60 Seconds, and the two National Treasure movies.

Since 2007, Cage has publically struggled to win over critics, moviegoers, and exhibitors alike. The big Jerry Bruckheimer paydays disappeared when the producer severed most of his ties with Disney. Cage kept working, but a parade of flops cost him his ability to command a high salary and eventually his ability to secure theatrical release. Rather than slowing down or becoming more selective, Cage stayed the course, continuing to star in movies, no matter how bad they looked on the page and how unlikely they seemed to return him to glory.

Amidst the dozens of movies Cage has headlined in the past ten years, few have gotten a theatrical release of any significance and virtually all of them have been designed or touted to be Cage’s comeback vehicle. These include David Gordon Green’s critically acclaimed indie Joe (2014), Panos Cosmatos' dreamlike and Internet-approved Mandy (2018), and last year’s Pig, which in truth should have earned Cage his first Oscar nomination in nearly twenty years. Despite ample and generally well-deserved buzz, none of these movies moved the needle on Cage’s image, nor did voiceover work in animated movies that drew sizable audiences like The Croods movies and the beloved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. He’s still that guy who makes so many movies, hasn’t caught a break in years, and stays relevant primarily via off-the-wall real life news stories like buying dinosaur bones and fending off nude Fudgesicle-wielding home intruders.

But now comes the Nic Cage comeback vehicle to top all others. The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent makes use of everything I’ve talked about in the previous four paragraphs, employing Cage’s unique public image and extensive history as a film celebrity to make a Nic Cage action comedy for the ages. The film wouldn’t work with any other actor at its center and though a fictionalized Hollywood insider tale would seem to lend to arthouse release and have a Being John Malkovich-level reception as its glass ceiling, Unbearable Weight actually gives Cage his widest live-action theatrical release since the Ghost Rider sequel ten years ago.

Nic Cage (Nicolas Cage) and his influential fan Javi (Pedro Pascal) find themselves in the middle of danger and adventure in "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent."

While such an undertaking might sound like calculated gimmickry, it gives me great pleasure to report that Unbearable Weight is an incredibly fun time and easily the funniest movie I’ve seen in theaters since the COVID pandemic began. Laughing along in a packed house is not something I’ve experienced since I was young and still paid to go see movies in general release. The hearty laughs took me back to warmly-received late Noughties comedies like Knocked Up, The Hangover, and Tropic Thunder.

Directed and co-written by Tom Gormican, picking up an untimely second credit after 2014’s That Awkward Moment, Unbearable Weight has a good deal in common with the last of those, Ben Stiller’s extremely funny and Oscar-nominated 2008 farce about actors making a Vietnam War movie who find themselves stranded and helpless in the middle of a jungle heroin gang’s operations. Like that movie, Gormican’s flick expects and rewards some knowledge of the film industry and of Cage’s standing in it. One of the first laughs comes from Cage meeting with his aforementioned Joe director Green and practically begging him to read for a part that already seems gift-wrapped for him.

When that gig falls through, Cage has no other choice but to accept a $1 million offer to appear at a birthday party in scenic Mallorca, Spain. There, the actor meets Javi (Pedro Pascal), a timid but devout fan Cage later learns has ties to a major drug cartel. Pressed by CIA operatives (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) to infiltrate Javi’s operation to rescue the kidnapped teenaged daughter of a political candidate, Cage agrees to work on a screenplay with his influential admirer. The two share their all-time favorite movies, take a cliff drive on LSD, and ultimately find themselves in the middle of grave danger as Cage’s own ex-wife (Sharon Horgan) and teenaged daughter (Lily Mo Sheen) are brought in to Mallorca.

Nic Cage (Nicolas Cage) poses for a selfie with a "Croods 2" fan he doesn't know is FBI agent Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) in "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent."

The screenplay, which Gormican co-wrote with TV alumnus Kevin Etten (“Scrubs”, “Workaholics”) is among the most likable comedy scripts I’ve encountered in a very long time. It is at heart a breezy and affable buddy comedy. It is distinguished by having Nicolas Cage playing a mildly fictionalized version of himself as protagonist, but not overly dependent on that hook, instead managing to both satirize and pay service to film's creative processes now in fashion. As Cage passionately rambles about Cassavetes and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, we remain blissfully aware that we’re watching something entirely different and, honestly, much more diverting. Unbearable is less Being John Malkovich and more Pineapple Express or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The Cage career retrospective angle adds a compelling layer of interest which helps elevate the film when it gets bogged down in obligatory plot turns.

You could argue that Cage is a little too in on the joke. His hairline has noticeably crept forward and there’s nary a gray on either end of his head. He’s also gotten into better shape than he’s been in a while. The use of a de-aged Cage with visual effects far below Marvel quality is an eyesore, albeit an amusing one. But he’s clearly enjoying himself and as someone who has endured declining paydays in increasingly mindless garbage for about a decade now, who could begrudge him this? The movie celebrates the actor’s body of work with genuine passion and appreciation. The nods to Face/Off and Con Air are practically expected here, but the love for Mandy, The Croods, The Wicker Man, and the absurd Guarding Tess is easier to appreciate for someone who’s spent more than a full week of their life watching Cage’s movies and at least another two writing and thinking about them.

If Unbearable Weight doesn’t revive Cage’s career, nothing can and maybe that’s okay. While its real world impact on its star remains to be seen, let’s just take a moment to enjoy this creative and enjoyable work and celebrate the sheer volume of cinema he’s given us, the bad stuff almost as enjoyable as the good.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: The NorthmanMorbiusFantastic Beasts: The Secrets of DumbledoreSonic the Hedgehog 2
Being John MalkovichTropic ThunderStep BrothersKnocked Up

Nicolas Cage:
MandyTeen Titans Go! To the MoviesPay the Ghost
Peggy Sue Got MarriedNational TreasureNextKnowingSeeking Justice

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Reviewed April 22, 2022.

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