Expectations were high when the trailer for “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” was released. A spy comedy following Nicolas Cage, playing Nicolas Cage, as he takes down the Nic Cage superfan leader of a drug cartel, was undoubtedly an intriguing sell. And while the funniest concepts of the trailer came through in the final product, other building blocks of the film floundered.
A major piece in “The Unbearable Weight” is Nic Cage and drug cartel leader Javi’s (Pedro Pascal) discussions of a screenplay they want to write. Quickly it becomes clear that the two are more or less writing the script for the movie they appear in. While these scenes fit “The Unbearable Weight’s” already present theme of self-awareness, they also ultimately outline exactly why this movie does not live up to its strongest concepts. Neither Cage and Javi, nor “The Unbearable Weight’s” writers, could decide whether to create an art house film or a blockbuster so they tried to be both. This leads the film down a path of massive quality inconsistencies.
This movie is a comedy above all else, an aspect that is present and entertaining even in the film’s weakest moments. Scenes of car chases, espionage and family drama alike are all funny, as well as tonally consistent. The style of humor stays the same no matter the situation or characters present. The same cannot be said about the quality of the rest of the film’s script.
Scenes of Nic Cage and Javi bonding and discussing their movie preferences, Cage’s acting career and Javi’s personal life are excellent, as are scenes of Cage by himself, where he occasionally experiences violent hallucinations of Nicky Cage, a version of Cage from the 1990s dead set on stardom. These scenes, which take up about half of the film, make the entire movie worth watching. The combination of wonderful actors giving their all to ridiculous situations and the genuinely sweet friendship that forms between Cage and Javi meet a quality level most movies never do. This is not to say the entire rest of the movie is bad either, just more cliche.
Where this movie completely fails is in its stilted attempts at plot progression and character motivation. Had this film simply followed Cage bringing down a drug lord through spy shenanigans, this review may well have come to very different conclusions about its quality, but no, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” insisted on creating drama and action through hackneyed underwritten familial characters that took far too much time away from actual spy stuff.
Both Javi and Cage have members of their families who end up majorly affecting the plot. Javi’s family—specifically his cousin Lucas (Paco León)—is simply one-sided, an over-the-top villain with minimal backstory, only present to serve as the main baddie come the third act. This would be wholly acceptable in a blockbuster, but less so in an arthouse movie, yet again creating an inconsistency. Alternatively, Cage’s family creates some larger issues.
It doesn’t mean much adding a fictional family to a fictional character, but adding a fictional family to a (fictionalized) real person is counterintuitive. A fictional family inherently separates Cage further from his real self, creating a limitation upon the concept this movie is built on; their existence delegitimizes the inside joke of the movie. And to make matters worse, his family sucks. The acting is fine but the writing and characterizations are awful. Picture the wife or daughter that gets kidnapped or attacked in literally any male-dominated action movie: these are those women. They argue, they scold, they get in danger and they get saved. That’s it, that’s all they do. When placed against the delightful characters that are Javi and Nic Cage, it is ridiculous that “The Unbearable Weight” dedicated its entire third act to characters the movie would have been better off writing out.
Despite its clear flaws, which I suspect will almost entirely only bother certain anti-blockbuster-type movie film snobs, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is a creative and funny movie that embraces the chaos synonymous with Nicolas Cage’s career while depicting a beautiful relationship between movie buffs and a mildly entertaining spy adventure.