In 1992 Nicolas Cage went to Vegas for the first time. Back then things were goofier and light-hearted.
“My father left home when I was 5. That’s why I’m named Jack, as in, ‘Jack tell your mother I’m just going out to get the paper.'”
In my mind Nicolas Cage and the city of Las Vegas have always been synonymous with one another. Cage certainly isn’t Elvis — though he probably wishes he were — or Tom Jones when it comes to Sin City, but the two are without question linked. Over the course of his illustrious and occasionally sporadic career, Cage has only had a handful of films take place in the City of Lights, but in the early to mid 90’s when his career was really starting to break he made two pretty important films set in Vegas. The first of those films was Andrew Bergman’s Honeymoon In Vegas.
Cage stars as Jack Singer, a private investigator that specializes in following cheating spouses. He also suffers from mommy issues of sorts and these are only worsened by the nature of his work. While on her deathbed, his mother implored him to never get married. Her reasoning was marriages never go well and no woman will ever love Jack as much as she does. Jack is unable to make that promise and she dies.
Years after his mother dies life is pretty good for Jack. His business is booming thanks to all the infidelity out in the world while he himself is in a very loving relationship with his girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker). Despite how much he loves Betsy he’s unable to fully commit and get married because he can’t shake what his mother told him. This eventually begins to cause issues and a year later the two are in a rut and on the verge of breaking up.
In a last-ditch effort to save the relationship, Jack convinces Betsy to go to Vegas for the weekend and get married. It appears Jack and Betsy are going to be ok but then Jack loses Betsy in a game of poker to Tommy Korgan (James Caan), a professional gambler. While it seems bad at the time the whole situation becomes a bit of a blessing in disguise as it helps Jack realize how much he truly loves Betsy. He goes to great lengths, including flying from New York to Hawaii to Utah and skydiving into Vegas within a matter of days, to win Betsy back.
I’ve been writing this column for just over a year now and one of the things I’ve mentioned multiple times is how it allows me to get reacquainted with Cage films I haven’t seen in years. In doing so I get to reevaluate the films and see how I feel about them now. Honeymoon in Vegas is one of those movies and I definitely like it a lot more now than I did 15 years ago.
Prior to my most recent viewing, I had always placed this Cage comedy in that Trapped in Paradise category. Those are movies that aren’t necessarily “good,” but they feature a fun Cage performance and are rounded out with a very good cast. Honeymoon in Vegas is less Trapped in Paradise and more Raising Arizona.
Obviously, I’m not putting this on the same level as Raising Arizona — Raising Arizona is the pinnacle of Cage’s comedic greatness — but they are in neighboring ballparks. Honeymoon in Vegas has all the Cage characteristics we’ve come to expect.
Cage narrates the film with a number of scenes featuring voiceover work. This is a classic Cage staple and I’m almost certain he has narrated more narrative films than anyone else in the history of cinema. His performance fluctuates a lot. At one moment he’s calm and subdued and at the drop of a hat, he jumps out of the stratosphere. He’s like a cartoon character come to life.
As he did many times throughout his historic career, the late Roger Ebert expressed some positive feelings about Cage’s performance. And as I’ve learned many times from searching for quotes to support my opinion, Ebert was much better at articulating what I struggle to say.
“Nicolas Cage is one of those actors some people like and others find excessive,” Ebert wrote in his 3 1/2 star review of Honeymoon In Vegas. “I tend to like him, especially when he is consumed by love, as he was in Moonstruck and is again here. He sweats and squirms in the key scene, as he tries to explain to Parker that, yes, he loves her, but no, he can’t pay his poker losses, and so, yes, maybe she should play along with this sinister gambler’s weird obsession.”
When it comes to Cage truer words have never been spoken. You either like Cage or you find him excessive but I think if you do like him then you’ll like love him in Honeymoon in Vegas because he’s doing what he does best. He’s taking a plot that is actually pretty dumb — though a year later Indecent Proposal would create something with a similar plot — and elevating it to something great like only he can.
Regardless of how you may currently feel about Honeymoon in Vegas I would heavily recommend watching it again soon, especially if it’s been more than 5 years since your last viewing. And when you watch just hone in on Cage and take note. I think you’ll discover a new appreciation for his performance and the film. I know I certainly did.