Mom and Dad (2017)

Directed by Brian Taylor

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Mom and Dad is exactly what it should be, but a little too long.  It’s crazy, but crazy has a hard time out-crazy-ing itself as movies push forward.  What is sensational in minute 10 might feel rote by minute 80.

There is another wonderfully over the top Nicolas Cage performance, though at this point it might feel like he’s purposefully reacting towards the internet fame of his own past performances.  He’s matched by Selma Blair, and together they have the most fun in the movie.

This is the story of a B horror movie.  Some kind of tv static has propelled parents into a sort of fugue state in which they develop a blood lust for their own children.  In other words it is infanticide on a widespread human level.  Once we know what’s going on, and we know what’s going on right away because it’s in the trailer, the movie wastes little time getting into it.

It’s a silly but enjoyable movie, mostly because the story never goes down that path of having one or more characters solve the mystery behind the bloodlust and turn things around.  Once the parents see red, that’s it.  It doesn’t matter why it’s happening, just that it is.  This offers an urgency to the film that many other movies purposefully try to water down in the name of deconstructing the conflict in order to offer a more worldly theme.  In other words most movies are imbued with a self-importance that Mom and Dad could care less about.

At the same time maybe this movie needs some of that self-importance.  The story is so shallow and vapid that it would work best as a music video or a 20 minute short film.  Everything looks and sounds good, there is an undeniable energy, but the novelty wears thin pretty quickly.  Most movies are 90 minutes or more because there’s a reason for us to sit around and pay attention that long.  There’s not much of a reason here.

If I were to guess, Mom and Dad is the movie you throw on before heading out to a party or on a lazy Sunday afternoon.  It’s unique enough to demand your attention, but by the midpoint you’re checking your phone, calling that uber or looking the movie up on IMDB to see what else Nic Cage has been up to lately.

The epidemic here seems to be on a global scale, but the focus is on the Ryan family.  Beyond mom and dad there are two kids, Carly and Josh (Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur) and Carly’s boyfriend, Damon (Robert T. Cunningham).  Things work out to trap the kids in the basement while the parents attempt to break through.  What follows is a series of booby traps and DIY destruction, something like a darker version of Home Alone.

It’s occasionally ingenious, sometimes stale and more than a little bloody.  Throughout the narrative we receive what I think are meant to be ironic flashbacks that comment on the characters’ frames of mind before parents started killing children.  Brent (Cage) is a heightened version of the Kevin Spacey character from American Beauty, the depressed family man who yearns for the days of his youth.  Kendall (Blair) expresses something similar, and she has a quietly seething rage directed at her teenaged daughter.

It seems the movie is trying to say that there is an anger built into every significant family relationship.  We love our family, but at times we hate them too.  It’s that occasional fury which might make us feel like we want to kill them but which only really reveals how much we love them.  Or something.  Those flashbacks don’t add much to the story, and if anything they add pauses to a story built on an adrenaline-fueled momentum.

Up Next: Man on the Moon (1999) /Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017), Altered States (1980), True Grit (1969)

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