By Marc S. Sanders
I’m looking forward to seeing a film that pokes fun at the life and career of actor Nicolas Cage. After seeing his new film, The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent, I’m still waiting.
The title is the best thing about this film. In fact, it might be the best title of any film to come out this year.
Cage portrays an account of himself, Nicolas Cage. His career in Hollywood seems to always be scraping the bottom of the barrel and he comes up desperate for the next film that will financially sustain him. Look actors gotta work too! He’s so anxious for a part that he’ll recite a monologue with a dreadful Boston accent to a Hollywood producer as he’s waiting for the valet. Alas, no roles are coming his way and he’s over $600,000 in debt. Best that his agent (Neil Patrick Harris) can do is get him a million-dollar paycheck to spend a weekend at a supposed super fan’s island chateau. Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal) is that fan.
As Nicolas’ stay commences, somehow, he finds himself caught up in a real-life action-packed story. The CIA inadvertently recruits him to stay on top of Javi as they suspect he’s kidnapped the daughter of a foreign country’s President. Yet, Javi doesn’t seem to give off any clues. He’s only enthusiastically concerned with entertaining his celebrity guest and selling the adventure screenplay he’s written with Cage in mind.
I gave up on this film after the first fifteen minutes. If I laughed three times during the course of the picture it was a lot. The oversight that I think occurred here is that it never felt like a spoof of the actor Nicolas Cage. Cage has a lot of suspect material in his past. He’s a die-hard Superman fan. After all, he named his son Kal-el. Who does that? As well, he’s infamously known to have recorded himself in a terrible looking Superman suit for Batman director Tim Burton to consider for a film revival with Cage in the superhero role. Cage has also been married multiple times, including to Elvis Presley’s daughter at one point. I believe his most recent marriage lasted all of three days. He has his odd collection of film roles, and he’s a member of the famous Hollywood family, the Coppolas (as in Francis Ford and Sofia). Yet, none of this material that comes to me off the top of my head makes its way into The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent. The title seems to scream Nicolas Cage and yet this film is hardly about Nicolas Cage.
Instead, this film directed by Tom Gormican, who also co-wrote it, opts to actually turn the second half of the film into an actual shoot ‘em up adventure with clumsy comedy scraps. Cage and Pascal scream amidst the bullets and car chases, but none of it is funny. It certainly doesn’t reach the heights of Lethal Weapon fanfare.
I think back to a film called This Is The End which features the Judd Apatow fraternity of actors (James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Jay Baruchel). Earth is coming to an end and the celebrities play themselves. The inside jokes were abundant with nods to their film careers, their penance for smoking weed and various gossip stories. If Nicolas Cage is truly playing himself and this new film is selling itself on that message, then show me Nicolas Cage. If you are just going to show an unfunny Pedro Pascal and clumsy gun fire galore, then you can easily swap out the celebrity at the center of it all and replace him with any other well-known actor. Don Knotts could have been inserted here, or Charles Nelson Reilly. Kim Kardashian could have had opportunity with this script.
Sure, there are some salutes to Cage’s film credits. Javi’s secret man cave of all things Nicolas Cage is a little fun for the short while we are there. Yet, what’s so relatable with a forgettable film like Guarding Tess? It’s actually a good movie with Shirley MacLaine in the title role. How many people actually saw it though, much less remember it? Face/Off gets a nod but nothing great beyond the gold-plated prop guns he used. Gone In Sixty Seconds is mentioned in one sentence of dialogue. Con Air hearkens back to the bunny in the box for a beat.
Other than one well known celebrity cameo for a blink and you miss close up, the Hollywood populace doesn’t even turn up to roast the film’s star. Imagine if Francis Ford Coppola made an appearance. “Nic, stop embarrassing the family.” Consider Sean Penn having a beer with Nicolas to reminisce about Fast Times At Ridgemont High (Nicolas’ first film appearance as a stoner dude, when his surname was Coppola). There’s not even a mention about his Oscar winning turn in Leaving Las Vegas.
I am happy to admit that Nicolas Cage has a very storied career and life behind him, and yet hardly anything is touched upon in this film. Instead, we are distracted with a kidnapped young woman that I don’t recall has even one line of dialogue in the picture. If she did, it happened when I dozed off.
One avenue seems so obvious for a film intending to spoof this actor. Walk with me for a second. Nicolas Cage did the film Con Air with actor John Malkovich. There’s already a much better film called Being John Malkovich that had a little fun at the expense of that real life actor. It was written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze. Know what else Kaufman & Jonze wrote and directed? A film called Adaptation with Nicolas Cage. See where I’m going here? This stuff writes itself. I’d love to have watched a scene where Malkovich walks in and says “I know what you’re going through Nic. I really do. Charlie and Spike never let up.” There’s much to play with here.
Yet instead, we are belabored with the unbearable weight of this unfunny film.