Any disappointment with Mom and Dad was my own fault really. It’s not so much the premise of an outbreak triggering a murderous rage making parents want to kill their children. OK, it’s that too. But it’s also Nicolas Cage starring in a movie with the premise of parents killing their kids.
For a performer like Cage (Rage), who’s been known to get completely over the top nuts with his character even when the script didn’t call for it, Mom and Dad is a godsend. It’s an Overact for Free Card. And he fully maxes it out here. He embraces the lunacy of the film and performs like he’s walking on glass spikes.
That’s probably exactly why he was the ideal guy for director/writer Brian Taylor’s divisive effort. There’s been some films that sounded like a bad idea that surprisingly won me over, but I doubt that’s going to be the case with Mom and Dad. This is a film with little middle ground. Audiences will either decide the premise has no entertainment value and hate every 123 minutes of its run time or be curious enough to give it a chance and appreciate it.
Cage and Selma Blair are Brent and Kendall Ryan, parents to two regular enough children. Daughter Carly (Anne Winters) is a teen itching to explore all her bad impulses while son Josh (Zackary Arthur) is a slightly mischievous kid. You get the sense early on that Brent and Kendall tried, failed and ultimately gave up on the whole stern parenting aspect of the job a long time ago.
As the child killer virus spreads, the parents are in greater control of their faculties than zombies and try to kill their kids not with kindness, but whatever weapon is in reach. Parents lure their children in and savagely and oftentimes brutally kill them. This leads to some uncomfortably blood and violent sequences, but this was really a watch at your own risk kind of film anyway.
Maybe there’s some subtle way of embracing every parent’s weakest moment. That Homer Simpson point when they just want to throttle their kid. Taylor, the co-director/writer of the Crank series, is not the kind of filmmaker who dabbles or is even remotely familiar with subtlety. Taylor favors the more is good, but more with explosions, mayhem and hard-charging music is the only way to go philosophy.
This leads to Taylor constantly resorting to more desperate and outrageous scenarios for shocks. A woman who just delivered her new baby suddenly gets the urge to smother it in the delivery room. And a visit from grandparents (including Lance Henriksen) makes for a brief moment of creative insanity with two sets of parents on a murder rage. And I can’t fully hate on a film where the young black guy, Carly’s boyfriend (Robert T. Cunningham), proves surprisingly difficult to kill.
Lost in the blur or hyperactive editing and senses assaulting is some interesting moments about middle age, diminished expectations and failed dreams. It’s in those quiet moments where Blair and Cage get to provide some insight in Bob and Kendall’s resentment and jealousy of their children’s freedom and wide-open potential before life and responsibility crushed them.
Blair is perennially underrated and she manages to keep Kendall sympathetic even when she’s indulging her most violent impulses. Cage is Cage, but this is a role that warrants it so why complain when a performer is so perfectly dialed in?
This premise is a hard sell, but with more dialogue and less extreme rage, Taylor could have found a better lane for his idea. Mom and Dad won’t be for everyone and in this instance, that’s probably a good thing.
Rating: 3 out of 10
Photo Credit: Armory Films