Once upon a time, Nicolas Cage was an Oscar-winning actor. And for a brief moment in time, Cage was a bankable box office action hero. Yet since the ill-advised The Wicker Man remake, Cage has become better known for being an Internet meme sensation. Recently though Cage has found some limited success with exploitation fare like Mandy and the recently released Mom and Dad. Co-starring Selma Blair and directed by Brian Taylor, half of the directing duo responsible for the Crank and Ghost Rider films, Mom and Dad is a jet black horror comedy. Its premise of parents driven to murder their children seems well-suited to the particular talents of Cage and Taylor.
From its opening credits, Mom and Dad evokes the spirit of low-budget 1970’s exploitation. Cage and Selma Blair are Brent and Kendall Ryan, unhappy middle-aged parents, with a teenage daughter and young son. They both seem resentful of the missed opportunities that parenthood has placed on their lives. However, when an unknown source broadcasts a strange signal through televisions and phones, parents are suddenly compelled to murder their children. Now the Ryan children find themselves locked in their basement fighting to escape their own ‘Mom and Dad’.
The ‘Horrors of Parenting’ Not Fully Exploited
Cage’s character is inexplicably bonkers long before he’s exposed to the infecting television signal.
With a wickedly dark premise and its gonzo star, Mom and Dad had a lot of potential to be a fun midnight movie. While it certainly has it moments, it’s a largely scattered effort. The movie is hampered by a weak screenplay and Taylor’s ‘kitchen sink approach’ to film-making. For the most part, Mom and Dad’s clunky script has little to say about real anxieties around parenting.
Characters tell us or explain why they are resentful or unhappy with their lives. It’s not quite expository dialogue, but Taylor never shows the audience anything that invites us to identify with any the parents. The movie’s child and adolescent characters are more likable than the adults. Cage’s character is also inexplicably bonkers long before the movie exposes him to the infecting television signal. This lack of any real subtext hampers the movie in its quieter moments.
Mom and Dad’s Frenetic Editing Becomes Distracting
Director Brian Taylor has a frenetic film-making style. Specifically, Taylor likes quick edits and frequent flashbacks that offer little and quickly become distracting. Taylor does give the audience a few fun, manic scenes. There’s the most memorable parent pick-up from school in film history as well as a great twist and cameo appearance from genre actor Lance Henrickson.
Yet Mom and Dad’s over-the-top violence never quite hits the stride of classic horror comedies. Cage is suitably over-the-top enough for the film’s premise. As expected, he chews the surrounding scenery with relish. As much fun as Cage is in Mom and Dad, it’s Selma Blair who gives the stand-out performance, carrying the bulk of the movie.
A Good Late-Night Diversion
Mom and Dad has enough to offer to serve as a good late-night diversion; I laughed out loud a few times and cringed on more than one occasion. Nicholas Cage is hitting a late-career stride as the go-to-actor for exploitative genre fair and seems to be having a fair amount of fun doing it. Unfortunately, Mom and Dad doesn’t have enough to say about the ‘horrors’ of parenting to make it much more than a diversion. While it may be one of those rare films that attracts a cult following, audiences are unlikely to hold it in the same regard as true horror comedy classics.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: B-