When I first heard the premise of “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”, I thought it was clever, but feared a one note joke. Nicolas Cage plays a slightly eccentric version of himself, at a crossroads in his career and life. Aside from voice work in the two “Croods” installments and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”, Cage has starred in a bunch of indie/direct to video movies over the past decade. He’s not getting major starring roles anymore and is thinking about retiring (his alter ego thinks otherwise).
An opportunity to make a quick million bucks comes up via an invitation by a superfan to attend a birthday party on an exotic island. Cage takes the gig — and gets way more than he bargained for.
The possibilities for exploration into the mind of an aging “national treasure” are all here. And even with the film’s lighter tone, I was hoping for some sharp and unpredictable insights into fame, fortune, family, etc. Instead “Massive Talent” is a standard screwball comedy that goes for cheap laughs while failing to use Cage and this concept to their full potential.
A blatantly over-the-top early scene involving Cage’s character doing an impromptu reading for a new role sets the tone — and the bar — (very low) for what’s to come. Conversations with his estranged wife and 16-year-old daughter are no better. Neil Patrick Harris must have taken his role as Cage’s agent on a dare, as he is wasted, with little screen time and nothing to add.
Cage visits fanatic Javi (Pedro Pascal) in Spain. Upon arrival, Cage is greeted by Tiffany Haddish. Well, she’s not actually Tiffany Haddish in this universe. She’s CIA agent Vivian. The feds believe Javi is a warlord who’s kidnapped the teen daughter of a criminal rival. Meantime, Cage and Javi are becoming best buds. (*Career Crisis Alert*: Haddish’s performances continue to get less and less believable. It doesn’t look like she’s even trying here.)
I’m a fan of meta movies — when done well. But “Massive Talent”’s talky, cartoonish and largely uninspired screenplay is way too obvious with the references. “Paddington 2” was only released four years ago, but multiple mentions as “one of the greatest movies of all-time” seem so dated.
While the the third act of “Massive Talent” is ordinary, it’s definitely the most satisfying. The obvious parallels of Cage’s action movie career and this wild adventure come together. And we finally see the iconic star actually having some fun.
This movie isn’t unbearable — but it is a massive waste of talent and opportunity.
LCJ GRADE: C-
Running Time: 107 min.