With more than 100 acting credits listed on IMDb, and various projects in the pipeline that haven’t even seen the light of day yet, it is fair to say that Nicolas Cage is one of the busiest actors in the movie biz. His first acting gig dates back to 1981, and to the TV movie, The Best of Times, and he has consistently been in work ever since.
But how busy is Nicolas Cage exactly? Well, to put things into perspective, most high-profile actors release maybe one or two new movies a year. In 2021, Cage released three: Pig (2021), Willy’s Wonderland (2021), and Prisoners of the Ghostland (2021).
Go back to 2011 or 2016 and Cage appeared in five movies a year. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, it was a whopping six movies!
Just doing a quick count up, and in the previous decade (2010 to 2019) the actor clocked up 40 film projects. These roles ranged from big blockbusters such as Kick-Ass (2010) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), to cult titles, such as Mandy (2018) and Color Out of Space (2019).
And with such a huge catalogue of films it is also fair to say that as well as being busy, his movies have ranged considerably in quality. For every Bringing Out the Dead (1999) and National Treasure (2004), there’s The Wickerman (2006) or Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2012).
To say his movie career is varied, would be an understatement. And to say his performances in these movies is at times polarising, would also be underselling this statement completely.
For every Nicolas Cage fan out there, there is someone who doesn’t like what he brings to the screen. For every hit movie he appears in, there is often a turkey waiting in the wings, and plenty of people to call him out on his acting choices.
But when you make as many movies as Cage does, then you are going to attract attention, be it positive or negative. You are also going to catch the eye of someone like filmmaker, Tom Gormican, who is the director and co-writer behind Cage’s latest film – a movie which makes it clear that Nicolas Cage has done so many roles, it now only makes sense for him to play himself.
The film is The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which is new to UK and US cinemas from today. The action-comedy – co-written by Kevin Etten – stars Cage, alongside Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ike Barinholtz.
In the movie, Cage plays a fictionalised version of himself, who is as quirky, eccentric, and self-aware as you might expect. He is also someone who, for the purposes of the story, accepts a $1 million offer to attend a birthday party, for a super fan who wants to meet his acting idol.
This super-fan is billionaire, Javi Gutierrez, as played by The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal. Gutierrez invites Cage to his home in Spain, where he hopes the actor will agree to be the star in a movie he has written.
Over the next couple of days, Cage and Gutierrez find they have much in common, and quickly become friends. However, their friendships is soon put to the test, when a couple of CIA agents make contact with Cage and convince the actor his new pal might not be all he seems.
What follows is a madcap adventure as Cage tries his hand at being a spy, attempting to work out if Gutierrez is a crime boss. And while this is taking place, the movie makes various references to Cage’s film career, offering nods and winks for long-time fans, and provides plenty of laughs too!
Before I go any further with this review, I think the first thing I should say is that I have to hand it to Nicolas Cage for appearing in a movie which goes out of its way to play up some of his perceived eccentricities. It’s one thing to act a fool on screen when playing a throw-away character, but it is another thing entirely to star in a film where you are lampooning yourself.
And Nicolas Cage doesn’t just star in this film, he throws himself into every inch of it. He knows that audiences will watch this movie because of him, and because they want to see how much he is willing to take on the chin.
The good news is, he takes it all on the chin and really, truly, dives into this role. He accepts that not every film he has made has been good, he understands that many people question his acting choices, and he uses all of this material to send himself up.
In fact, the strongest element of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is Nicolas Cage’s commitment to this movie – or rather, his commitment to delivering a self-deprecating version of himself on screen. Had he only gone in half-hearted with his performance, or had he refused to do any of the self-referential gags, then the film would not have worked in the way it does.
It is because Cage understands the assignment, that The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is something worth watching. He completely gets the comedic aspect of this film and the light-hearted ribbing of his Hollywood persona, and he sells the heck out of the whole thing.
But it’s not just Cage who brings the fun factor to The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, Pedro Pascal proves to be the perfect screen partner too. The two of them have strong chemistry together, and a significant amount of joy can be found just watching the actors interact with each other.
From a conversation about the ‘third greatest movie of all-time’, to a sequence in which they both trip out on LSD, the Cage-Pascal combo is a winner. The film fires on all cylinders when they share the screen together, and their pairing gives the picture some of its best laughs.
What doesn’t work so well in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is the spy/CIA plot line, which feels very much like filler material, chucked together in order to give the film some kind of peril. With the exception of the action-orientated finale, the vast majority of this plot line is uninteresting, and it completely wastes Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, who are lumbered with roles as CIA agents.
Had this aspect of the movie been removed and replaced with something else, I don’t believe it would have been detrimental to the film in anyway. It serves a purpose, but it is easily the weakest aspect of this whole picture, and certainly not what audiences will care about as the credits role.
But by this point, much enjoyment will be had and plenty of chuckles will have filled the air. The gag rate in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is pretty consistent, and I expect a duff plot line won’t matter to anyone all that much.
Is The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent the greatest Nicolas Cage movie of all-time? No, I don’t believe so. However, it is a really good one.
The film is one of those pictures that doesn’t take itself seriously, lets the audience in on the joke, and simply wants to offer a couple of hours of entertainment. Perhaps most important of all, it wants to make it clear that if Nicolas Cage wants to appear in a gazillion movies, some of which are crap, then that’s his prerogative.
Watch the good stuff, avoid the bad, and something like this movie will come along as a result. I think that’s the central message.
Daft, amusing, and very playful, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a witty and pleasing romp. It is a film which can play to all audiences, but will really strike a chord with Cage fans.
Cage and Pascal make the movie and this is the key takeaway from the picture, but if you’re looking for something that won’t prove too taxing, then The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is for you. It may even encourage you to check out some of Cage’s back catalogue of films – well, the good ones anyway.