Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal, Sharon Horgan, Tiffany Haddish, Ike Barinholtz, Paco León, Neil Patrick Harris, Lily Sheen, Alessandra Mastronardi, Jacob Scipio, Katrin Vankova, Demi Moore, Anna MacDonald, David Gordon Green
Written by: Tom Gormican, Kevin Etten
Directed by: Tom Gormican
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and violence
Running Time: 107
Date: 04/22/2022
IMDB

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Atomic Cage

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While not exactly a profound deep-dive into meta-movie-ness, this lovable Nic Cage action-comedy is still a hilarious, playful take on perceived movie star image, personality, and human connections.

In the story, actor Nicolas Cage (Nicolas Cage) is pinning all his hopes on a part in a new David Gordon Green movie, to hopefully get his career on track. When he doesn't get it, he's forced to take a $1 million paycheck to appear at a birthday party for Spanish billionaire businessman, and Cage superfan Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal), on beautiful Mallorca. Surprisingly, the two men hit it off, and begin discussing a new project.

Unfortunately, Nic is contacted by CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) and informed that Javi has likely kidnapped the 16-year-old daughter of a presidential candidate, and can he please search for her while he's on the compound? Thus begins a movie-like adventure for Cage, who not only rescue the girl, but also must protect his estranged wife (Sharon Horgan) and teen daughter, Addy (Lily Sheen).

Truthfully, most of the stuff in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent has already appeared in many other meta-movies, ranging from Last Action Hero and Being John Malkovich to This Is the End and Always Be My Maybe (the latter of which featured Keanu Reeves in an inspired parody of his star image). And it's hardly any kind of visual or structural masterpiece, as was Adaptation (also with Cage). We can practically feel the second act snapping shut just as Javi suggests that he and Cage "get to work on the third act."

Cage, playing "himself" is the key here, riffing on the singularly odd and lovable personality quirks he has built up over the course of over 100 movies, including his trademark "Full Cage" over-the-top performances. Yet the new movie, co-written by Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten and directed by Gormican, is smart enough to understand that 107 minutes of wild scenery chewing wouldn't be enough (despite the wacky appearances of a youthful, Vampire's Kiss-era "Nicky," who appears to give the current Nic some demented guidance).

The inspired casting of the soulful Pascal begins to round things out as the men bond, at first over their mutual love of Cage, but then over more human matters (Paddington 2 is cleverly used as a lever to execute this change). Nic's relationship with his family is also touchingly messy, as he struggles to get past his own baggage to connect with them. But above all, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is truly funny, riffing on obscure nuggets in Cage's filmography (Guarding Tess, anyone?), but also finding generally wacky humor besides. This may not be the "real" Nic Cage, but he's awfully fun to be around.

Lionsgate's excellent Blu-ray release includes a commentary track by director Tom Gormican and writer Kevin Etten, about 5 minutes of deleted scenes, half-a-dozen short, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a Q&A from the SXSW film festival, including Cage himself. Recommended.

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