Mom and Dad


Nicolas Cage just wants to have a chat.

(2017) Horror Comedy (Momentum) Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert Cunningham, Olivia Crocicchia, Lance Henriksen, Marilyn Dodds Frank, Samantha Lemole, Joseph D. Reitman, Rachel Melvin, Bobby Richards, Sharon Gee, Edwin Lee Gibson, Brionne Davis, Mehmet Oz, Grant Morrison, Bokeem Woodbine, Adin Alexa Steckler, Lorena Diaz. Directed by Brian Taylor

 

Most parents, at one time or another, want to kill their children. Not literally of course; it’s just that sometimes the frustrations of parenting (particularly with teens) can give rise to a fantasy of genuine mayhem against our offspring. It isn’t something parents like to admit but it is perfectly normal for, once in awhile, for parents to absolutely hate their offspring.

From all outward appearances, the Ryan family seems to be perfectly harmonious. A poster family for suburban bliss, the family is anything but behind closed doors. Father Brent (Cage) is stressed at work and is mystified as to how to handle his two children; mother Kendall (Blair) feels underappreciated and her relationship with daughter Carly (Winters) has completely disintegrated. Carly steals money from her parents, lies to them consistently and is basically the kind of teen that whines consistently about her parents but acts like an absolute bitch to them at every turn. Finally youngest Josh (Arthur) acts out and at 10 seems to have the issues of someone much older. Oh joy, right?

Then something weird happens. All over town, parents get a sudden irresistible urge to kill their own children. Not their grandchildren, not their nieces and nephews, not the neighbor’s kids, just their own offspring. And they aren’t out to off them in humane ways; the more bloodshed and violence, the better.

Carly, knowing her young brother is in mortal danger, rushes home to keep him safe in a rare and unexpected case of actual feelings for someone other than herself, but both parents are home and the two kids have to barricade themselves in various rooms in order to survive. That’s when Brent’s parents (Henriksen, Frank) arrive for a previously planned dinner…

Nobody plays manic like Nicolas Cage plays manic. As such this is pretty much the perfect role for him; he goes from playing father of the month (definitely not of the year) to a crazed homicidal maniac often in mere seconds. Some folks give Cage a whole lot of grief about his career choices but this shouldn’t be an occasion for that. He’s clearly having fun onscreen – he has stated in interviews that this was the most fun he’s had making a movie in more than a decade – and that enjoyment shows through. This isn’t just the most fun he’s had in ten years but maybe his best performance in that time, although there are a couple that give him a run for his money such as his 2013 drama Joe.

Most of the rest of the cast can’t stand up to Hurricane Cage although Blair gives a magnificent effort. Winters plays Carly a bit too well – she’s such a nightmare at the start of the movie that one actively roots for some kind of strange virus that will compel her parents to kill her horribly…oh, good. That makes it harder to buy her abrupt personality change once the carnage begins.

However, the real star here is Taylor, who along with sometime partner Mark Neveldine delivered the Crank films. Like those action comedies, the pacing is breakneck – at least once the mayhem starts – and the mayhem is cleverly done. Some might find it a little bit gruesome and more than a few will be completely affronted by the subject matter.

If you take it in the spirit in which it’s meant, Mom and Dad is an exceptionally entertaining film despite its blackest of black humor. There are some issues with the writing – a lot of the scenes seem disconnected from one another rather than flowing harmoniously as a story. Taylor also uses a fade to black with such regularity that it becomes completely annoying. However, these are mainly minor little faults  in what is a thoroughly enjoyable parental fantasy that may allow parents having a difficult time with their progeny to blow off some much-needed steam.

REASONS TO GO: Cage is at his twitchy best. The gore and violence have a great sense of black comedy. There’s no rhyme or reason to this but there doesn’t need to be. The film starts a bit slowly but once it gets going the pacing is non-stop.
REASONS TO STAY: Carly is such a nightmare teen you hope she gets horribly murdered. The scenes seem to be disconnected from each other.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a ton of violence, some of it extreme; there’s also plenty of profanity, some sexuality and drug content involving teens.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was filmed largely in Louisville, Kentucky.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/718: Rotten Tomatoes: 74% positive reviews. Metacritic: 58/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Crazies
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
Get Me Roger Stone

Pick of the Litter – January 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Insidious: The Last Key

(Blumhouse/Universal) Lin Shaye, Kirk Acevedo, Bruce Davison, Leigh Whannell. In yet another prequel for this popular horror franchise, Dr. Elise Rainer must make her most perilous journey into the Further yet with stakes much higher than she’s ever faced before. That’s because the haunting that she’s investigating is in her own family home. January 5

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Children of Beqaa

(Green Apple) Elias Matar, Lyla Matar. Lebanon is hosting over two million Syrian refugees. At one of the main camps in Beqaa, 70% of the refugees are under the age of 18. The government is overwhelmed, the NGOs trying to help are overwhelmed and the people are slowly starving and dying of thirst. This documentary hopes to shine a light in the darkness and bring world attention on the situation which grows more critical by the day. January 5

Vazante

(Music Box) Adriano Carvalho, Luana Tito Nastas, Sandra Corveloni, Roberto Audio. A young woman in 19th century colonial Brazil is forced to marry the husband of her late aunt who happens to be a slave trader. Leaving her for extended periods to go capture African slaves, she comes to know the slaves as human beings and begins to realize the immorality of what her husband does for a living. January 12

The Final Year

(Magnolia/HBO) Barack Obama, John Kerry, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes. The final calendar year of the Obama administration is given extraordinary access to documentarians who show the various challenges, triumphs and heartbreaks that the Obama presidency endured in 2016. Touted as a “real life West Wing,” this is in equal parts civics lesson and history lesson. January 19

The Leisure Seeker

(Sony Classics) Helen Mirren, Donald Sutherland, Janel Moloney, Kirsty Mitchell. An elderly couple takes their RV which they’ve dubbed “The Leisure Seeker” from New York to Key West in a quest to visit Hemingway’s home. With the husband dealing with oncoming dementia and his wife undergoing chemotherapy, this trip is going to be their last hurrah – or their finest hour and quite possibly both.  January 16

Mom and Dad

(Momentum) Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Lance Henriksen. A self-absorbed teenage girl and her younger brother find themselves in a fight for survival when their parents – along with all the other parents in town – begin to turn against their kids with increasing bloody violence. This is the latest from the twisted mind of Brian Taylor who along with Mark Neveldine directed Crank. Cage has been quoted as saying this is the most fun he’s had making  a movie in a decade.. January 19

Have a Nice Day

(Strand) This animated feature is most definitely not for the kiddies. A young criminal rips off the Chinese triad of a whole lot of cash to get his girl some plastic surgery. It has been described as what would happen if Quentin Tarantino made Reservoir Dogs as an animated film. This might just be the strangest feature-length animation you see all year – and it’s only January. January 26