The premise is enticing: Nicolas Cage stars as Nicolas Cage in a film about the revered, meme-worthy star being down on his luck. To raise the stakes a bit higher, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” sends Cage to Mallorca, Spain, where he attends the birthday party of a mysterious billionaire in exchange for one million dollars. What follows is an action-comedy romp that prioritizes conventionality at the expense of conducting a more complex exploration of the film’s meta dimensions.
From the film’s opening shot, in which a couple watches a Nick Cage movie and comments on its brilliance, it is abundantly clear that the movie is going to lean heavily on its unique casting choice. While the early mentions of Cage’s name and references to his many iconic films are a fun, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”-esque thrill, the novelty wears off quite fast. Besides the occasional appearance from a terrifyingly bad CGI version of a young Cage who commiserates with his future self about the perils of stardom, the film mostly feels like an international espionage story that just happens to star Cage as himself.
Luckily for viewers, “Massive Talent” has a rather compelling plot, even excluding its meta elements. Cage is recruited by the CIA in Mallorca to find the kidnapped daughter of a Catalonian politician, which sets the stage for various plot twists and flashy stunts that are straightforward but entertaining. In typical Cage style, the actor approaches the role with plenty of intensity and screaming, at some points exaggerating his own public persona in an amusing mockery of himself. While fans should look to his recent performance in “Pig” for evidence of Cage’s nuanced acting mastery, this less impressive and campy turn is a sight to behold.
Pedro Pascal is brilliant as Javi, the elusive billionaire who is obsessed with the “National Treasure” star. His comedic timing combined with his wide-eyed fanboy attitude elevates the film and illuminates his tangible chemistry with Cage. As the two men sob over “Paddington 2” and get involved in farcical hijinks, audiences won’t be able to keep from engaging in the hilarity.
While Pascal shines, the film affords the rest of its starry ensemble far less room to show off their skills. Specifically, comedians Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz — who star as Vivian and Martin, respectively — are criminally underused, and their absence certainly costs the movie lots of potential humor. Their few scenes as bickering CIA agents are some of film’s funniest; viewers are bound to leave the theater wanting more.
While the film’s tropical setting lends itself to envy-inspiring drone shots, the film’s other technical elements are rather unremarkable. The action sequences, especially in the third act, are rather uninspiring and cause the film to drag slightly towards the end. However, Cage and Pascal’s occasional tongue-in-cheek comments on the state of movies today make it clear that the filmmakers are perfectly aware of and comfortable with satirizing this conventionality.
Ultimately, “Massive Talent” is worth the price of admission and a good bid for clever, original films that dare to venture into the realm of self-referentiality. However, for a film which makes Nick Cage playing Nick Cage its main selling point, the execution leaves something to be desired. While a deeper dive into the mind of an aging, universally-beloved movie star struggling with his work may have cost the movie some of its big-budget appeal, it could have produced a more memorable final product. But hey, Nick Cage does as Nick Cage wants.