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'The Unbearable Weight' movie review: The essence of Nic Cage takes center stage

"Massive Talent" is a celebration of not only Cage cinema, but a deconstruction of what really makes a good movie endure. What it means to us over time.
Credit: Lionsgate

ST. LOUIS — Nicolas Cage super fans have begged for a film like "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" for decades. A story that dedicates the heart of its matter and existence to the pure untamed essence of its muse, one of the wackiest yet most intriguing performers of the past forty years. You name a mood, and he has struck it twice. You name a movie type, and he has played it twice. You name a genre, and he has hotel napkins from each of them. All we needed was a movie that celebrated all of those made-up personas, one place to laugh and worship it all.

At long last, co-writer/director Tom Gormican wrote a story about a mega-rich super fan Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) resurrecting a declining Cage in a plot that plays like a mash-up of "National Treasure" and "The Rock." Cage's character is named Nick Cage for a distinct bypass of complexity, and in this world he is a real has-been-someone still needing to riff a wild Boston accent with a director in a restaurant parking lot. He doubts himself more than any film critic could, so he eventually gives in to the offer from his agent (a great Neil Patrick Harris), agreeing to go to the birthday party of Pascal's Javi. 

Things don't go as planned, in both a literal and figurative sense, and mayhem and adventure ensue. A rebirth of sorts follows, as Cage tries to prove himself to his daughter and ex-wife one last time instead of making everything about himself. All of this is essential catnip for Cage fanatics, the filmgoers who just want to see him turn loose and go off on a tangent.

Unlikely de-aging should be an award that "Unbearable Weight" receives, because Nick has a devil's advocate, aka younger version of himself, following him around like an imaginary agitator. Looking like a Cage stuck between his film debut and "Moonstruck" with a 70s haircut, the movie's unlikely hero can't seem to escape the anguish surrounding the collapse of his movie star career.

Credit: Lionsgate

Most of the film works. The screenplay from Gormican and Kevin Etten tosses mini-roasts at the star's ego and laundry list of hits. "Face-Off" is mentioned frequently, but undercover CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz, fine in their roles) argue over the vitality of "Croods." No Cage stone is unturned in this wildly funny world, which hums at a nice pace for 107 minutes.

You will leave shouting your favorite one liners from his IMDB page, because that is the movie's deal. It's not really about Cage playing the hero in real life that he did in his movies countless times; it's him handling self-deprecation like a champ and giving his deep bag of tricks a new riff.

He gets big support from his wingman here. Pascal gives his best performance since "Game of Thrones," completely leaning into the wide-eyed glee of a supposedly deadly man in Cage super fan, Javi. The two actors have fun portraying their movie-loving souls, and the audience feels that. In a couple scenes where the stakes get high for Nick and Javi, the actors and writing never allow the movie to get too heavy. The anti-serious tone enlivens the movie, and Pascal is a big part of that. Thank you for allowing him to be intentionally hilarious instead of unintentionally (see the "Wonder Woman" sequel).

More than anything, "Massive Talent" is a celebration of not only Cage cinema, but a deconstruction of what really makes a good movie endure. "Con Air" is featured in the very first scene, where a soon-to-be kidnapped young woman marvels at the long-haired action star handing his fictional daughter a stuffed animal. "He's incredible." The convict-turned-hero was alright and all, but Cage is the real star of all of his movies because of how he made a civilian feel after watching.

Instead of locking that in only one direction, Gormican lets it all out. The actor's drama followers do get their serving, because of his rise and fall from relevancy getting some meat of the plot. Comedy and action fans see their guy find his big moment. The near ten second pronunciation of his name by de-aged Cage is laugh-out-loud funny.

You could say "The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" allows the very essence of Nicolas Cage's soulful lunacy to reach center stage. I enjoyed it very much and look forward to seeing it again very soon.

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