Often, parenting in film is displayed as a warm embrace of eternal and unconditional love for children. Brian Taylor’s reality check offers the flipside; not only can children be unappreciative assholes for everything their parents do for them, but parents lose their former identities entirely once their child is born. Taylor explores this by way of unknown hysteria that sweeps through the quiet suburbs, causing parents to kill their own children.
Let’s be real. The reason most people will instantly want to watch Mom and Dad is to see Nicolas Cage go completely uncaged (pun totally intended) and murderous on his teenaged daughter and young son. Based on Cage’s gonzo performance, you’ll earn every penny of your admission ticket price and more. The crazed eyes, the Cage one-liners, and his insane physicality mean full-throttle Cage madness. It’s an absolute riot. Yet, for all his star power, Selma Blair holds her own in every way as his unappreciated wife and mother of their two bratty kids. Equally bonkers in her homicidal rage as she is vulnerable prior to the strange phenomenon, Blair steals the film and never looks back.
As you might have guessed by now, expect a lot of child deaths. Because it’s a touchy thing to deal with in film, Taylor tows the delicate line of how much to show on screen. Meaning, most of the deaths that occur are off-screen or shot in a cut-away manner so as not to be too gratuitous. Yet, the implications are quite clear that these kids are dying in very violent ways.
If you’re familiar with Taylor’s idiosyncratic action films Crank and Crank: High Voltage, then you’re already aware of his high octane pacing. Similarly here, he takes a simple premise and dials it up to an exaggerated melee of humorously brutal proportions. Yet, because teen daughter Carly (Anne Winters) is the audience proxy, it tends to drag out the middle leading up to the epic finale. In short, Carly is rendered a typical teen; spoiled and flippant. Winters handles the role just fine, but we simply want what we signed up for; the main event grudge match between disgruntled parents and unruly children. By Blair and Cage being so delightfully wicked in their roles, and having small character moments that humanizes them in much more endearing ways, they wind up being the characters the audience finds themselves rooting for. Which means Taylor also backed himself into a bit of a corner when winding the narrative down. These kids are just kids, so they can’t help it. But we really, really like what Blair and Cage do with their characters.
It’s a simple premise hinged on a worthy sentiment. There’s not much depth or explanation aside from context clues. It’s not perfectly paced and takes a while to warm up to the main event. It does offer a ton of humor, of course, with the best product placement I’ve ever seen for a home improvement tool, complete with witty one-liners. Yet, framing the story mostly through the lens of unlikable teen Carly bogs down the very short run time. And truth be told, without Cage and Blair behind it, Mom and Dad would be forgettable. Come for the Cage, stay for the Blair and you’ll have an absolute blast. There’s just not much more to it than that.
Mom and Dad screened at Fantastic Fest on September 24, 2017.