The kids actually are all right; their parents are another story. Mom And Dad has the nuclear unit going atomic, but it’s less radioactive than mildly hazardous.
In this new horror-comedy from Crank writer/director Brian Taylor, a suburban slew of parents devolve into an unexplained fit of rage against their children. The violent id underneath affection, the part of every parent that despises their offspring, is unleashed for maximum destruction with the full brunt of any similar kind of stifled emotions behind white picket fences. Unfortunately, the film explores these themes gracelessly and without without the specificity to elevate the humor.
The film centers on the painfully average Ryan family, with the oddly paired Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair at the heads of the table. The eye on the family’s details is as superficial as the film claims the family to be – fitness classes serving sex over wellness, dad loving guns and cars, dimwitted parents against scheming youngsters. One wishes that Taylor had more curiosity for the subject he was skewering than the obvious or basic, and that the execution was ever as intriguing as the concept. Toss in some not-so-casual sexism and racism and you have got one icky sit.
Mom And Dad plays out in pseudo-gonzo fashion, the parents’ rage surging the film into a garish hyperdrive that plays like stylistic peacocking rather than flourishes in sync with the themes. And that’s not just the bone-crunching havoc – there’s beer commercial sexuality and leaden attempts at sentiment keeping this tone and visual language uneven throughout. If one were to argue that the chainsaw construction and stilted characterizations were intentional, then you would also have to argue that the film doesn’t think its audience is all that smart.
The satire is undercooked outside of the film’s major set-pieces, with the film too eager to get to the mayhem without establishing this family unit beyond its pedestrian observations. By the time it gets to its more inventive passages, any goodwill is stifled by the film’s thin ideologies and sketch-style dialogue. Its sharpest moments come when it sticks to the conceptual – specifically its inversion of home-invasion cliches in the final act.
Here is another zenith for Cage, who embarrassingly barks like a dog and rages to the Hokey Pokey. The single brightest spot in the film is Selma Blair, a singularly perfect choice for this brand of satirical mayhem. Blair is supremely undervalued for her dry bluntness, and there is comic gold her in her sudden pivot from cloyingly yourning mother to bitter revelry. The exacting precision of her morphing body language and nuanced cruelty is the kind of smarts missing from many of the film’s other elements. Give her a comeback vehicle, pronto.