Meta action-comedy showcases ‘Massive Talent’ of Nicolas Cage

The actor is willing to have fun with himself and brings us along

Brad Keefe
"The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent" stars Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal.

I try not to pay much attention to box-office numbers as any kind of reflection of how good or bad a movie is. Opening weekend figures are often a better reflection of hype and marketing efforts.

But something I pay attention to is which movies have staying power. If a movie doesn’t drop off as much as is typical in the weeks after release, it’s usually a sign that it’s getting good word of mouth.

Case in point: Nothing has made me happier this year than seeing my favorite movie of the year, “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” sticking around and getting talked about. It’s even expanding to more theaters in Columbus this week.

More:Experience the absurd, profound of ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’

Likewise bringing me joy? The disappointing numbers from the disappointing new “Fantastic Beasts” movie.

I say this because Hollywood execs notice this, and if we vote with our wallets, we can get more good movies and less bad movies.

I particularly love to support the sort of oddball movies that aren’t surefire hits, which brings me to this week’s pick, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” I embarrassingly drew a blank when I was getting my ticket and called it what you may know it as: “that Nicolas Cage movie.”

The bonkers action-comedy from director/co-writer Tom Gormican stars Cage as “Nick Cage,” a fictionalized version of himself. This Cage is feeling creatively unfulfilled — there’s a great scene where he runs into director David Gordon Green and gives him an unrequested read for an upcoming role.

He’s also in a financial rut, forcing him to accept a $1 million offer to meet an overzealous superfan (Pedro Pascal) at a luxury retreat. It turns out this fan may have nefarious connections. Cage is recruited by a CIA agent (Tiffany Haddish) to channel his action-star roles and go undercover.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” is an apt title for the winking tone of a movie that pretends to take itself seriously but clearly doesn’t, energy that’s matched by Cage’s performance.

The meta nature of things makes the tone light and airy even when it goes through the paces of its action story (which is actually fun in its own right). It’s a parody that leans into every silly moment, but does it in an earnest way.

And Cage is so thoroughly committed to a willingness to have fun with his own persona, it’s one of the most lovable roles of his career. He takes on a role that was written for him specifically (a la “Being John Malkovich”), though Gormican has stated in interviews that he considered Daniel Day Lewis if Cage declined.

That willingness to have fun with himself gets literal in scenes where Cage plays with a CGI-age-reduced younger version of himself.

Pascal, though, is the real star-making turn. The “Mandalorian” actor is ridiculously charismatic, embracing the core bromance that makes this so fun.

Even as it leans into the comedy, the action sequences scratch that big-screen itch, albeit with a relatively modest budget.

All in all, this is exactly the kind of movie I’d rather see than another sequel, reboot or superhero origin story, so get out there and cast your vote at the box office this weekend.

“The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent”

Now playing in theaters

4 stars out of 5