As the day approaches for yet another Nicolas Cage magnum opus (it’s treasure protecting time!), I felt it might be high time to brush up on our “How To Tell If Your Watching A Bad Nicolas Cage Movie” skills. Use these lessons as a guide to determine just how much of a sucker you really want to be when considering paying green kaysh money for National Treasure: Book Of Secrets.
- If at any point of the movie Nicolas Cage tricks himself into forgetting that he is an Academy Award-winning actor widely praised for his subtlety and character work, in order to put on a Bad Acting Clinic where his skills are free, you are watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie.
- Any time he yells a ludicrous, only logical in-context request like “Step away from the bike!” or “Put the bunny down!” or “300 Feet! Pretty neat, pretty neat!” or my personal favorite “We’re more like treasure protectors!”, you are watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie.
- I didn’t buy it when Sam “The Man” Jackson and Samantha Caine outran a fireball, why would I buy it when Nicolas Cage does?
- If Nicolas Cage’s love interest plays the entire movie two corset breaths from swooning (ahem, Jessica Biel in Next) or with only her lips and spicy latina fire (hola, Eva Mendes in Ghost Rider), instead of you know, actually acting, then you are watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie.
- Speaking of which, Nicolas Cage is 18 years older than Jessica Biel. He should never EVER be playing her lover in a movie. This isn’t necessarily a sign of a movie’s relative merits, I just wanted to point out how creepy it is. In the immortal words of Chris Cocker, seriously Nic, LEAVE JESSICA BIEL ALONE!
- The presence of Giovanni Ribisi is the immediate tip-off that you are watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie. Not even a scuffed looking Angelina Jolie can fix the problem (though the “Donny, Low Rider. Low Rider, Donny.” scene helped)
- If this shows up in the trivia section of a movie’s imdb page: “Nicolas Cage wrote sections of the script”, well then, do I even need to tell you?
- Any time a scene calls for Nic to scream in pain, prepare yourself, as you are about to lay witness to a bad Nicolas Cage movie.
- If Nicolas Cage can see EXACTLY two minutes into the future, then you should have been able to see a full NINETY, cause you’re watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie and you didn’t do shit about it. How’s that college degree working out for you now, kid?
- Two Nicolas Cage’s can be a good thing (see: Adapation), but a baker’s dozen Nicolas Cage’s can NEVER be a good thing (see: Next, the end of).
- If a prominent actor shows up half-bored and obviously slumming it a low rent Nic Cage affair (Julianne Moore in Next, Ellen Burstyn in Wicker Man, Peter Fonda in Ghost Rider, Robert Duvall in Gone in 60 Seconds, et al), trust the “cha-ching” look in their eyes and triple bloop the hell outta there.
- If his hair looks rattier than Tom Hanks’ in Da Vinci Code then you are watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie.
- Any time you have a big, splashy CGI-enhanced comic book movie extravaganaza starring a huge A-list action star in the title role, it might be a good idea to have a big, tough, believable bad guy. As in, not the wimpy emo kid from American Beauty who liked to film plastic bags and spend time with Kevin Spacey. Cage was playing a dude with a skeleton head on fucking fire, OF COURSE he could take out the d-bag in blue face paint and gelled hair. C’mon!
- As a rule, anytime the director decides to show us Nicolas Cage’s abs, thereby confusing us for the rest of the movie as to why they were so inexplicably ripped for such a freakishly weird dude and then you get into a heated debate with your friends about whether or not he was wearing a Wrath of Khan-style chest plate, he’s trying to distract you from the fact the movie he’s making with Nic Cage SUCKS BALLS.
Bottom line, Nic Cage is always playing it straight, and I respect him for it. He makes no apologies for his style. His very essence is a heightened piece of sincere slapstick. Hell, I’m not sure he even has the ability to be tongue-in-cheek. You never have to worry that he’s winking at you, because he’s not. He’s flat out waving you down like John McClaine at the end of Die Hard 2 (“Here’s your fucking landing lights!”). The worry is whether the movie he is in is playing it straight.
Nic Cage is out of his mind crazynuts in Adaptation, but the movie respects what he’s doing and runs with it. Same goes for Raising Arizona, The Rock, Leaving Las Vegas and to an extent, Peggy Sue Got Married. His crappy movies are the ones where you get the sense the filmmaker is making fun of him. The Wicker Man is a pile of shit, no doubt, but Nic is trying hard, you can see it. I got the sense that at the end of the day Neil LaBute went home and giggled himself to sleep that he got Nicolas Cage to scream bloody murder about bees. The entirety of Next seems like an on-set dare to see how far they can push Cage into absurdity.
Bottom line time… if you disrespect what Cage is bringing to the table, your film will suffer. And that’s the real sign you’re watching a bad Nicolas Cage movie. Nic will come off looking like an idiot and the audience won’t need my guide to see that the movie is bad. It’ll be all too easy to tell.
Here’s hoping Bruckheimer let Cage drop the crazy thunder on National Treasure 2. It’ll be nice to say I liked a Nicolas Cage movie for a change. It’s only been a half decade since I had the chance.
(Follow me on Twitter @jasonamatthews)