People love to talk about the power of a perfect pop song, but what about punk? Director Brian Taylor (Crank) has infused his storyteller with no-nonsense adrenalized filmmaking, and while that aesthetic (like punk) has its detractors, the fans willing to enjoy the refreshingly hellish train ride known as Mom and Dad are in for a treat.
Brent and Kendall Ryan (Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair) are a seemingly picture perfect suburban couple with two kids who, well, generally act like kids. Carly Ryan (Anne Winters) is a teenager whose thoughts drift on hooking up with her boyfriend Damon (Robert T. Cunningham) and hanging out with her BFF (Olivia Crocicchia), so bonding with her folks is last on her priorities. Her younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) is a troublemaker extraordinaire, playing pranks on both his sister and father. Parents, in most cases, should always have a deep love for their kids, and Brent and Kendall are firmly entrenched with the ties that bind.
The tables are turned when a mysterious phenomenon leads parents to go absolutely insane and murder their children. This plague/affliction spreads to the aforementioned super couple, leading Carly, Josh, and even Damon to battle for survival.
Running at a tighter than a steel drum 83 minutes, Mom and Dad is that rare type of film you can watch over and over again. Never afraid to go off the deep end acting wise, Cage delivers one of his most appealing performances as a father who, realizing his testosterone driven youth is a distant memory, simply wants to be left in peace. Kendall’s ultimately drive is to be the best mother as possible, and when that love is returned by her kids (especially her daughter), she’s absolutely devastated. Blair, who’s an underrated actress (check out her work in Storytelling and Hellboy), effectively brings out Kendall’s continuing heartache (and joys) of being a mother.
The punk rock stylings of Mom & Dad lies not only in Taylor’s inspired use of editing and composition to consistently give viewers a cinematic sugar rush, but also in his surprisingly subtle methods of storytelling. During the movie’s most sublime moment, Brent and Kendall have a heart to heart after a domestic squabble goes south (spoiler: Nicolas Cage and pool tables are not a good mix). Both partners express their mutual frustration at being parents and, in effect, growing older.
Their marginalization from their kids, and possibly society, is set aside when they become cold blooded hunters, and though their intent is absolutely gruesome and criminal, there is actually a light behind their eyes. Blair and Cage make a great duo (they would have been perfect choices years ago in Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and one hopes the filmmaking gods give the pair another film to continue their innate chemistry. Cage previously worked with Taylor in 2011’s underrated Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and the actor’s refreshingly eccentric stylings continues to complement the filmmaker’s enervating storytelling approach.
Amidst the engaging work of the leads and inspired directing from Taylor, Mom and Dad is also anchored in Anne Winters’ performance. Carly starts off as a bratty teen that few of us can sympathize with, but in the ultimate parent vs. children showdown we ultimately root for her character. Winters holds her own with Cage and Blair, and her performance ends up being the glue to Mom and Dad’s totally out there premise.
Credit also goes to Taylor for turning not over explaining things in Mom and Dad or throwing a heavy handed message to viewers. He leaves a few missing threads out there for us to weave together, and the ending (while it may infuriate a few) left me more than satisfied. There’s a healthy share of memorable one liners that are littered throughout the movie (most of them uttered by Cage), and I’ll be watching this movie once again whenever it hits Blu-ray.
Don’t let the gimmicky premise fool you – Mom and Dad is Grade A entertainment for anyone who wants a little shock to their system. Families tend to be a crazy bunch, and if there’s a little truth behind the craziness of Mom and Dad, don’t worry – it’s just a movie!
***Mom and Dad hits theaters, VOD and Digital HD January 19.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Take a listen to this month’s episode of CinemAddicts, a show hosted by Anderson Cowan and I, below!