Review by Daniel Weber
Running Time: 1 hour 26 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated R for disturbing horror violence, language throughout, some sexual content/nudity and teen drug use.
Directed by: Brian Taylor
Written by: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert T. Cunningham, Olivia Crocicchia, Lance Henriksen, Samantha Lemole, Joseph D. Reitman
Okay. So Derrick, the Grand Master of this site, gave me this film to review for one reason and one reason only; I FUCKING LOVE Nic Cage. Need proof? Here:
I only sleep in a blazer and wristwatch when dozing on my Nic Cage pillow.
And I have more Cage artifacts I will reveal in future reviews of Cage films, that Slave Grand Master Derrick has also assigned me. The point is I LOVE Nicolas Cage, good movie, bad movie, it doesn’t matter as long as he is in it.
Which brings us to the recently released Momentum Pictures’ Mom and Dad.
Wrong movie – there is no saving the Universe here. Also Jeffery Jones is one terrible human being.
I have to say, as a thirty-fou… Uh, older male I mean, I loved this movie. First of all it is directed and written by Brian Taylor, half the brains of the Crank series, which for me is a very beloved action series. The Crank feel is not lacking in this film.
The difference is that while the Crank series uses its manic pacing to constantly and always move forward, lest Jason Statham die, Mom and Dad has an amazing back and forth pacing. Pacing that until the end of the film you may not quite understand, but once you do you understand how brilliant it is, you understand the statement it is trying to make. It uses similar editing, cuts, and directing as Crank but in a far more four-dimensional way, both esthetically and for story telling purposes. But lets slow down and back ourselves up a bit.
Before a very Tarantino-esq opening credits sequence set to Dusty Springfield’s “Yesterday I Was Young”, a song that is about love and youth which is a theme constantly revisited throughout the film, our story starts with a mother stopping on the train tracks, leaving her SUV with her child inside, and letting a train destroy it.
Was that shocking? Well, you better get ready for an entire hour and 26 minutes of it. This is basically the opening statement of what the film is about – parents intent on killing their children.
It is never explained why this is happening, only a cue as to when it is about to happen, which is usually white noise followed by a high pitched noise that’s followed by a record-scratch-like sudden stop. This is the cue that kids are about to die. It is full of wonderfully directed foreshadowing, “aftershadowing”, and everything in-between. Mom and Dad also has many ways of building a feeling of constant tension, and does so masterfully.
Man, there is so much in this movie I want to cover, but I will try to avoid spoilers as much as possible and end with my theory of what this film is really about.
Brian Taylor, aside from being half the team of the brilliant aforementioned Crank series, also directed Nic Cage in the… uhh… unfortunate Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. Quite a feat in the superhero golden era of the 2010’s. But no matter because, like I said, even the most terrible Nic Cage films are awesome because – NIC FUCKING CAGE!!!
Horrendous? Yes. Awesome? Yes.
According to an interview with Matt Singer from Screen Crush in September of 2017, Brian Taylor did not write Mom and Dad with Nicolas Cage in mind as the titular Dad character Brent Ryan. He was merely the first person he sent the script and offered the role to.
I call total and utter BS on this claim. Brent was 100% written with Cage, and ONLY Cage in mind. In this role Cage, as he usually is, is at his Cage-iest. Apparently, in one of the best Cage scenes in the movie where he destroys a literally just-built pool table and part of his own home’s basement with a sledgehammer, it was solely Cage’s own idea to sing “The Hokey Pokey” while doing so. True or false this is an instant classic Cage scene that must be added to all “Cage Rage” montages on YouTube immediately.
There are several surprisingly good performances in this film. Character actor (read: guy’s face you totally know but name you totally don’t) Joseph D. Reitman gives an early yet very entertaining performance as the “Homeroom Teacher”. He’s definitely the cool teacher all the stuck up high school kids actually like, but would never admit to.
Anne Winters who plays the daughter Carly Ryan also gives a great performance as the rebel-turned-heroine, and does it in tandem with her presumed boyfriend David, played by a very charming and competent Robert T. Cunningham.
And guess who else shows up? During a clip of a news broadcast, my second Chaos Magician in two consecutive reviews, Grant Morrison! Morrison is credited as “Expert” but I way prefer to think of him playing himself. He supposes the chaos happening in the country may be the result of a terror attack using some biological toxin.
Who better to wage in on chaos than a Chaos Magician?
The most stunning performance however goes to the still very attractive Selma Blair who plays the titular Mom character Kendall Ryan. Her turn from mother saddened by the loss of friendship with her daughter Carly, to protector of her newly born niece from the blood lust of her own sister right after her birth, and finally to a mother succumbing to her own lust for the blood of her children is literally amazing to watch.
No, I’m totally the good guy. Now open the door so I can kill you with my meat cleaver please. I love you.
There are many amazing scenes that Blair accomplishes, both solo and with Cage. The one that amazed me most is the “acting with your eyes” scene where she looks at a previously prone, flat on his back Brent after she gets home and succumbs to the madness afflicting the country. Brent rouses and looks at her and completely understands her, responding simply with “they’re in the basement”. And we know exactly what their conversation was, just by her eyes. It was perhaps the first time I actually saw true acting and realized in my soul how complicated and beautiful it can be. Amazing what happens when you start reviewing films, huh?
This quickly leads to the third act where all manner of hell breaks loose. This includes Blair casually waving to her neighbors while trying to gas out her children in the basement using a hose connected to the stove, a 3-way generational battle royale, and the birth of one of my new favorite movie lines “Sawzall saws all”.
“Sawzall. From Pipes to Children, It’s in the Name.” (Legal note: I have no idea if that is their actual tagline.)
It’s no accident that one of the most honest and heartfelt bonding moments between the characters of Kendall and Brent, where Cage’s Brent adds to the film’s constant allusions to the loss of youth (and eventually later the all-encompassing avenging of it against those perceived to have taken it) is also where the film ends. Cutting out right before the words that we know are coming are said, based on the actions taken by the parents during the film.
And this is why I conclude that the entire film, and this is pretty much confirmed by Taylor’s Screen Crush interview, is just a fantasy for the middle aged. A daydream for every patriarch and matriarch of all the strongly forged and bonded family units. It is just an allusion, a quick thought, a not-really-but-kind-of-really wish fulfillment that those of us sometimes have in our darker moments when we wish we could, if only for a fraction of a second, open all those infinite doorways that are now closed. Where we are still able to enter all these doorways and possibilities and see ourselves “grabbing life by the balls and squeezing” till it yells uncle and makes us Kings and Queens, instead of trudging down the infinite hallway of familial surety – which, because I really am a sentimental fool, is truly a wonderful hallway granting fulfillment and love, filled with laughs and tears of joy.
I’m not saying that’s what literally happens in this film, it isn’t. But it is the ultimate message. We all yearn for our wasted youth and those infinite possibilities, but in the wake of those doors that closed, we can still find something that is just as amazing. Believe it or not, I found this film both darkly funny and entertaining as advertised, as well as having a secret hidden uplifting message that only some will pick up on.