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The unbearable weight of massive talent

 Audrey Kupferberg examines a film roll in her office
Audrey Kupferberg
Audrey Kupferberg examines a film roll in her office

Stardom is an astonishing gift for an actor. In the case of a recent action comedy, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, it allows the real movie star Nicolas Cage to play a fictional version of himself. As such, he can enter into the adventure of a lifetime.

This fictional Nick Cage has it all. He is a devoted father to his sixteen-year-old daughter. He’s as likable as a prized friend. He is vulnerable, sweet, and occasionally incredibly brave. He’s the guy you want next to you when the bullets fly!

And the bullets eventually do fly in this film. As the picture begins, the fictional Nick Cage and his fictional agent, played by Neil Patrick Harris, agree to an unusual deal. Cage, who owes lots of money to various folks, will accept a million dollars to be guest at the birthday party of his superfan, Javi Gutierrez, in Mallorca. Even before he reaches his destination, Cage becomes involved with the CIA. It turns out his superfan is a prominent member of an international crime syndicate. The CIA requires his help to nab the guy and stop the evil doings.

Javi is played by Chilean-born actor Pedro Pascal, whom many will recognize as Oberyn Martell from the fourth season of Game of Thrones. He also is known to millions of viewers as the title character in the current series The Mandalorian. Pascal’s charm, pleasant looks, and versatile acting ability contribute to making The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent an effective comedy. Cage and Pascal have a great chemistry, which is so important to the success of the storyline.

The screenplay is by the film’s director Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten, both of whom are responsible for the TV series Ghosted from five years ago. Gormican and Etten have taken great care to develop these two characters. Nick and Javi are a real match. They soon decide to team up to write a screenplay. Javi demonstrates his adoration for Nick by taking him to his on-sight Nicolas Cage Museum. But, oh my, oh my, there is the matter of the nasty criminal organization thought to be headed by Javi. And there is the matter of the CIA using Nick as a spy to stop this bad-boy group from performing any additional crimes. What a pickle Nick is in as his life is threatened repeatedly!

One of the CIA operatives is played by Tiffany Haddish. It’s an odd casting move since this wonderfully funny performer, who is hotter than hot in today’s market, hasn’t very much to do to show off her skills in this movie.

Most of the time is spent watching Nick and Javi develop a friendship, something we see more with women than men in American movies. At one point, they even admire each other’s shoes and decide to trade. That’s a new twist on heterosexual male friendship. The last portion of the movie really picks up speed with an exciting chase sequence and knives out, guns ablaze!

It’s odd for movie stars to allow themselves to be fictionalized. Cage must have encouraged the concept because he is a co-producer. The film could have become an ego trip for him, but it never does so. This film isn’t the comedy of the year, but it’s a fast-moving, pleasurable entertainment.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent first played in theaters in the spring and now is streamable and available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Audrey Kupferberg is a film and video archivist and retired appraiser. She is lecturer emeritus and the former director of Film Studies at the University at Albany and co-authored several entertainment biographies with her late husband and creative partner, Rob Edelman.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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