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The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is smart, funny, and deeply self-reflexive

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Co-writer and director Tom Gormican (That Awkward Moment) helms this action comedy with Nicolas Cage playing himself. He's strapped for cash, so he agrees to take a million-dollar appearance fee at billionaire fan Javi Gutierrez's (Pedro Pascal) extravagant birthday bash, but when it turns out Javi may be a drug kingpin involved in the kidnapping of a politician's daughter (Alessandra Mastronardi), Cage finds himself recruited by two CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz). (107 min.)

BESTIES? Nicholas Cage and Pedro Pascal star in the action comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, in which Cage stars as himself hired to attend a billionaire fan's birthday party, leading to a wild weekend involving a drug cartel and the CIA. - PHOTO COURTESY OF LIONSGATE AND SATURN FILMS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Lionsgate And Saturn Films
  • BESTIES? Nicholas Cage and Pedro Pascal star in the action comedy The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, in which Cage stars as himself hired to attend a billionaire fan's birthday party, leading to a wild weekend involving a drug cartel and the CIA.
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Glen If you're not savvy to Nicholas Cage's reputation as an over-the-top, scenery-chewing madman, step one is to stop reading this, open YouTube, and search for "Nicholas Cage losing his shit," which will take you to a montage of some of the actor's choicest moments of wild-eyed thespian mayhem. He's also known for rarely saying no to a paycheck, especially in recent years where it's not uncommon for him to film five or more movies a year, some of them arguably terrible: Jiu Jitsu (2020) anyone? Yet, Cage has proven himself a remarkable talent—the man can be an absolute genius. All these disparate truths are in play in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which simultaneously makes fun of and pays homage to Cage's reputation. It's an absolute blast.

Anna I love when someone who has been a household name for decades and has every reason to carry around bravado and ego doesn't mind poking fun at themselves. I applaud his willingness to be both the star and the butt of the joke. In the film, Nick's struggling not only to find his next big project and source of income, but also with his relationship with his 16-year-old daughter, Addy (Lily Mo Sheen). She's unimpressed by his taste in books and film and his desire for her to like all the things he likes. His ex-wife, Olivia (Sharon Horgan), is sick of having to explain to him that it shouldn't be a shock that his teenage daughter doesn't dig his obscure picks for movie night. When he loses out on a part he really wanted and wallows by getting way too sauced at Addy's birthday party, it's clear that Nick needs to get his life together. Then the fun can really begin when he meets Javi after agreeing to attend his birthday party for a price. Even as the film's plot line becomes more and more ridiculous, it only gets more fun to watch. Cage and Pascal are wonderful together—I'll watch a buddy comedy between those two anytime!

Glen Pascal is positively ebullient! There's an amazing scene when they decide to drop acid together, and the look in Pascal's eyes is pure delight. The first thing I remember seeing him in was Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), where he struck me as a Latin Burt Reynolds. He's handsome and roguish, but in this role he's downright giddy. Javi loves Nick and his films so much, and as their relationship blossoms, they truly appreciate one another, though Cage is understandably wary. Much of the comedy comes from their mixed signals to one another—because Cage believes Javi's a remorseless drug runner, he reads menace in all the wrong places. Soon they're collaborating on a screenplay together, discussing twists and turns and how potentially ludicrous they'd be to the character arcs and plot points ... and yet the film goes in outlandish directions and makes it work. This may not be the best film in theaters this year, but it's certainly one of the most fun.

Anna It had me laughing over and over again, especially their acid-fueled adventure and paranoia that led to some real hijinks. Cage can't help but like Javi, even after he's been told Javi is a kidnapper. He seems so affable and truly interested in working with Nick on their screenplay. Haddish and Barinholtz play the CIA agents trying to recover Maria, both great comedians and great additions to this cast. This is just one of those films that you leave believing that everyone on set had a great time making it. It's silly and outlandish and totally fun from start to finish. I can see this being one of those films I rewatch when I need a mood boost—it just gave me a lot of joy. Δ

Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Split Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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