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Nicholas Cage and Pedro Pascal in a scene from their newest film The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
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Nicolas Cage’s newest film hits the box office with a confused splash.

Nicolas Cage is back, though if you’ve seen his new movie “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” then you know he never left. A film packed with action and comedy, Cage’s most recent work takes his acting abilities to a new level.

It’s a “character-driven adult drama” as Cage and Pedro Pascal, who plays Cage’s partner-in-crime Javi, would say. Any plot that opens with the kidnapping of a politician’s daughter counts as a drama these days. The start of the film throws the viewer off before suddenly switching to a view of Los Angeles and a snapshot of Cage’s failed marriage, his ruined relationship with his daughter, his dire financial straits and a one-million-dollar birthday party invitation that might solve everything.

Enter Javi, Mallorca coast and a CIA plan to take down a gun ring. Somehow Cage gets wrapped up in the spy world as he befriends a possible gun ringleader with ties to the kidnapping then, bam! Suddenly our two stars are immersed in a paranoia-drenched visit to town while tripping on LSD. While Cage and Pascal, both incredible actors with significant range, play up their roles in the most humorous of ways, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” feels like a movie you would have to be extremely high to understand.

Director Tom Gormican said, “The film would be an homage to his [Nicolas Cage’s] body of work, and that just as his work spanned so many genres, so would our film.” Well, he certainly made a great homage. “Con Air” (1997), “Face/Off” (1997) and other Cage films are referenced throughout the film. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” will be a film to add to his repertoire, as it crosses several genres and showcases Cage’s range from comedy to drama.

So why would you need to be high to get this movie? Simple. The intersecting genres and periodic dry humor make the film feel as if time is dragging. This is no fault of the director, the actors or even the scriptwriters. Well — not entirely the scriptwriters’ fault.

Crude comments feel both out of place and even forced; for example, when Javi and Cage meet for the first time, Cage says, “Look, if Javi wants me to fuck his wife or watch me watch him fuck his wife, that’s a no-go.” The opening with the kidnapping was random and took too long to reach the point where it made sense in the film. Yes, the film is rated R. Yes, it counts as action. But there is a time and place for crudeness and confusing kidnapping scenes — this did not feel like one of those times.

This being said, there is nothing wrong with crossing genres. “Blazing Saddles” (1974) was another movie-in-a-movie that bounced between film styles. “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” seems to recall this technique, but did they succeed? By all accounts, yes they did. Rotten Tomatoes has actually given this film an 87%, the highest of any Nicolas Cage movie. The audience score, which was also a solid 87%, reflects critics’ thoughts. Not bad for a film that might as well be the handbook for a Cage fan club.

The salvageable part of the entire film rests on one important person: Nicolas Cage. Die-hard fans of his films will enjoy this one just as much as any of his other films. He pulls out characters from the past and plays up the broken actor trope to the best of his ability. Having grown up watching “National Treasure” (2004) and “Ghost Rider” (2007) with my parents in the evenings, I feel anything with Cage is a must-see. He continues to exist on the “will rewatch” list, a decent feat considering “Jurassic Park” (1993) and “Casablanca” (1942) are the only others.

To me, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a film that, had there been a chance to watch it at home, it probably would have been switched off due to lack of interest. Being in a theater and paying the $30 for the ticket and snacks might have been the only reason that chair was still filled. We could also blame the lack of interest on a thousand other possibilities.

Maybe this viewer just lacks the funny bone to understand and appreciate this type of movie. Perhaps the theater she went to also lacked that important comedy skeletal piece. After all, there were few laughs throughout the theater during what were supposed to be humorous moments. It’s completely possible that the wrong audience was in attendance. Maybe we were just too sober. Or, even worse, maybe it’s the darn cell phones and social media that have limited our ability to pay attention for long periods of time (cue eye roll).

Either way, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” marks a notable return to the big screen for Cage. Although it might not have hit the funny bone for this writer in a sober state, who’s to say no one else enjoyed the film? I would personally score the film as a 6 out of 10. The question remains: Should you still go see it? Absolutely, because it’s “Nicolas f—ing Cage.”

Writer Profile

Rebecca Trevathan

University of Texas at Austin
Journalism

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