Mom and Dad features Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair as Brent and Kendall Ryan, a pair of upper middle-class yuppies bored and frustrated with their lives, career paths, and two children–Carly and Josh. But when a mysterious signal is sent out across all radios, televisions, and various digital devices, Brent, Kendall, and every other parent in the world find themselves consumed by an intense desire to kill their own children.
The film showcases Taylor’s chaotic, high-energy, tongue-in-cheek style but does so with a sense of refinement not entirely present in his earlier works. Because whereas a movie like Crank starts in a twisted world of action movie cliches only to burst out of the gate at top speed until everything reaches a logical yet absurd conclusion, Mom and Dad is instead a slow burn.
The first third of the movie highlights the frustratingly dull existence of the suburbs these characters occupy. A father who hates his job and the constant noise of his home. A housewife who resents her choice to give up a career to raise her children. And two children who refuse to act their age and are almost eager to take cheap shots at their parents.
That said, Taylor does all he can possible do to make such a dull, day-to-day grind a kinetic, tense viewing experience.
His stylistic use of quick cuts makes even a typical morning drive to school almost fun to watch on its own. Every scene and dialog exchange hammers home and escalates a lingering sense of frustration, resentment, and simmering anger. And the sound design and music provide a steady, quick tempo that sounds and feels like an elevated heart-rate.
It’s like watching a lit trail of gunpowder burn and hiss its way beneath this soul-crushingly mundane surface, guiding us towards some massive mountain of TNT these characters have been stockpiling for years. We know the explosion is coming. The movie knows it. But the characters are blissfully unaware their perfect, boring little world is about to be blown sky high.
By the time the movie unleashes chaos upon its hapless characters, it feels earned. It feels welcomed. It feels as if this world and its characters almost deserve it.
FRUSTRATION AND RELEASE
Strangely enough, once the proverbial shit hits the fan and parents are shown brutally chasing, attacking, and killing their children, there’s very little in the way of actual on-screen violence. The movie certainly earns its R-rating, but Taylor makes heavy use of cutaways that imply more violence than is actually shown.
And I suspect that this may be the biggest issue some might have with Mom and Dad. The movie is fun, frantic, uncomfortable, and exciting. But for some, the constant build-up towards yet more implied violence might be more frustrating than fun. Because when a movie sells itself on its premise alone, the expectation of the audience is that the movie intends to deliver on its promise of parents brutally murdering their children in stylized fashion.
And for others, such as myself, the promise of Nicholas Cage being unleashed in a role he was born to play was a big selling point of the film. But the reality is that while Cage is easily the best part of the movie for all the right reasons, his overall screen time is rather limited. And the time he’s allowed to display his unique brand of fiercely dedicated over-the-top acting is even more limited.
That all said, what we get with Mom and Dad is good–very good. But it feels like we could have gotten more of everything. It feels like it all could have been a little better. More chaos. More crazy. More on-screen violence.
Perhaps it was a matter of budget. Perhaps its was a matter of cutting back to ensure the movie didn’t struggle to receive an R-rating from the MPAA, especially with children being the primary victims in this film. Or maybe it was all exactly as Taylor envisioned for the film, and any perceived shortcomings are little more than a matter of personal taste clashing with self-created high expectations.
And all things considered, Mom and Dad feels like it’s the movie it needs to be–quick-paced, crazy, fun, and leaving you wanting more. And all without feeling like it overstayed its welcome.
Mom and Dad is a definite CHILL.