Review: Nicolas Gage Holds Up the Unbearable Weight of an Inside Joke

The first half of Tom Gormican’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is almost instantly embarrassing. Cringe humor is a thing, but it’s only for fans of movies like Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy (1983) or Matt Spicer’s Ingrid Goes West (2017).

It’s clear that Massive Talent was going to be one giant, tongue-in-cheek meta joke. But fortunately, Gormican and his muse of sorts, Nicolas Cage, know exactly what they’re doing with their movie.

As can be seen in all the promos for Massive Talent, Nicolas Cage is playing Nick Cage in a film about Cage. No, it’s not a documentary, and it’s quite clearly a scripted story.

We see Cage as an actor who was once a superstar and now struggling to land any kind of gig in Hollywood. This Cage has a completely fictional wife and teenage daughter played by Sharon Horgan and Lily Sheen, and the actor’s real-life legendary showbiz dynasty — the Coppolas — aren’t acknowledged in the film.

But we get plenty of name drops, callbacks and references to Cage’s very real acting work. To make it even more obvious Cage’s alter-ego is fictional, his on-screen agent (played by Neil Patrick Harris) notifies him he’s been invited to an extravagant birthday party of a very wealthy fan in Mallorca, Spain.

Pedro Pascal plays the fan who actually has ties to an alarming gun cartel. Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz play the CIA agents who tip off Nick about who his unlikely new friend might actually be.

Massive Talent starts out as a self-aware comedy about celebrity life, with Cage even playing a computer-graphic, de-aged imaginary version of his character in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), who represents Nick’s conscious. One can only assume this was an intentional homage to Cage’s dual roles in Spike Jonze’s own meta classic Adaptation (2002).

Once we’re in Mallorca for the rest of Unbearable Weight, it’s a mix of buddy comedy and traditional action flick a la Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder (2008).

Gormican’s claims to fame rests on the romcom That Awkward Moment (2014) and Fox’s short-lived sitcom “Ghosted” (2017-18), co-created with Massive Talent screenwriting partner Kevin Etten. Gormican and Etten don’t break a lot of new ground with their new feature, but it is amusing enough to spend 105 minutes.

Cage, though maybe predictable in his casting as a famous actor making fun of himself, pulls off the gimmick effectively. Haddish and Berinholtz are their usual funny selves, and Pascal might be the best part of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent with his pleasantly surprising amount of comedic timing. It’s also interesting to see a Hispanic criminal organization set in Spain rather than Latin America for a change.

If silly characters getting themselves into ridiculous situations to cartoony proportions is your bag, then you’ll probably get a kick of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.