To its credit, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent” would have been an enjoyable breezy buddy comedy had it not starred Nicholas Cage. With Cage, the movie benefits from his manic energy, movie history and unpredictability to make it lots of fun.
“Weight” hooks you in early as Cage (playing a fictionalized version of himself save for his filmography) is banking on landing a film role that will put him back in the box office spotlight. He also needs money: divorcing wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) has forced him to live in a hotel with a $600,000 tab that’s overdue. Added to his anxiety is Addy (Lily Mo Sheen), his 16 year-old daughter whom he feels distanced from whenever they’re together. Even Cage showing Addy one of his favorite films, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to enlighten her film knowledge, backfires as self-serving: his therapist chastises him for not thinking of Addy’s interests; Olivia confusedly asks Cage why a teenager would be interested in century-old horror movie.
When the coveted film role slips through his fingers, Cage contacts his agent Richard (Neil Patrick Harris) to announce his retirement. Discovering he’s locked out of his hotel, desperation drives the cash-strapped Cage to accept a million-dollar offer to attend a birthday party in Spain that Richard has mentioned to him.
Who’s offering Cage the million? Uber-fan Javi (Pedro Pascal), who flies Cage to his palatial estate on the coast of Mallorca. In addition to the invite, Javi has written a screenplay he hopes will interest Cage. Meeting Javi, Cage immediately bonds with the mild-mannered olive grove owner and finds they have common film and familial interests. Unbeknownst to Cage, CIA agents (Tiffany Haddish and Ike Barinholtz) are following Javi as the drug kingpin who has abducted the daughter of a Catalonian presidential candidate to swing the election in the cartel’s favor. With Cage inside Javi’s compound, the agents secretly contact Cage to become their spy- the inside man who can save a kidnapped girl’s life.
A lot of “Weight” has the farcical style of French film comedies like “The Man with One Red Shoe,” an unassuming man drawn into intrigue he’s completely unprepared for but triumphs in silly situations because he’s exactly the wrong guy. The same holds true for Cage- his previous action film roles and actor’s ego lend themselves to the silly situations and physical humor. As an audience following Cage for 40 years, knowing Cage the eccentric is where “Weight” reaps the reward of having him as its star.
“Weight” also plays it smart by showing scenes of Cage and Javi’s characters connecting, making you care about their camaraderie. From cliff diving to LSD-induced driving, you enjoy even the most unbelievable story turns. With Cage’s unpredictability, it works just like it did in those old-school foreign farces. With the added cameo of Cage playing against himself as his invisible movie star-obsessed ego (the ego has an ‘80s look- think “Valley Girl”), you remember how talented the Oscar-winning actor is outside of his recent straight-to-video offerings. Cage would tell you unashamedly, as he does in “Weight,” that an actor’s job is to work. Luckily for him (and us), “Weight” is what works for Cage.