Say you could take a movie like “The Happening“, where a mysterious plague overcomes people and makes them want to commit suicide, but it changes the results a little. Now, it only affects the parents, who exhibit a change in the attitude from protecting their children, to instead wanting to kill them. Now add the forever crazy antics of Nicolas Cage and you have “Mom and Dad”, bizarre creation that gives you another reason to demand that Cage hand back that Oscar he won back in 1995.
Brent Ryan (Nicolas Cage) and his wife Kendal (Selma Blair) have the ideal life in the suburbs with their two kids. Carly (Anne Winters) is a teen-ager in high school, and Josh (Zackary Arthur) is her younger brother. The whole family gets along pretty well, but Ryan is dealing with a mid-life crisis and Kendall wants to be back in a creative job like she used to have. Carly and her friend Riley (Olivia Crocicchia) would like more freedom to have fun. Carly has a boyfriend Damon (Robert T Cunningham), but Brent does not like him because he is older, and he is black.
But there is a sudden turn in events. The parents are overcome by an insatiable urge to murder their children. Regardless of age or disposition, they are driven like wild animals to slaughter the fruit from their loins. It happens slowly over the course of one day, and then the first reports come in of dead children. The news is ablaze with reports of theories of all sorts. It could be unusual microbe activity in the water, or a sinister plot of an evil foreign nation. But these parents are compelled to kill the lovely little shining stars in their lives. They are guided by an unseen desire to destroy their spawn.
Carly and Joshua are caught up in the murder spree that is about to imposed by their parents, Brent and Kendall. The can hide and they can run, but they have nowhere else to go. Damon has been able to escape his own death-by-paternal-unit, so he comes by to help. Carly is clever in ways that can fight back, so she can survive with her brother. Oh, and of course, this all happens on the night that Brent’s own parents are coming over for dinner. His dad Mel (Lance Henriksen) is of course under the same spell and feels the need to do the dirty deed – kill his own son in a gruesome manner.
Yes, this is a frankly bizarre and twisted movie. But it is a crazy set-up that seems tailor-made for the frantic and manic performances for which Nicolas Cage is most famous. And he does not disappoint here at all. In a sequence (a flashback that is set weeks before the weird killing virus), Cage plays Brent at home in the basement constructing a large pool table. And then in a fit of rage and fury, he destroys the same pool table with a sledgehammer, all while singing the “Hokey Pokey”. Ridiculous? Yes, it is – but at the same time it is fascinating to watch.
Brian Taylor is also the writer and director (with partner Mark Neveldine) of movies like “Crank”, Crank: High Voltage” and “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. That is, writing and directing movies that are so tilted and perversely skewed is second nature to him. So this movie fits quite well into his wheelhouse.
Is this movie great or meaningful? Is it even good? The movie is competently made, but the soundtrack does not fit at all. The acting is somewhat uneven. Cage and Blair are really good, but there is no depth to being depraved. Anne Winters is the best, because she has a real emotion of fear and wanting to protect her much younger brother.
I just want to see this family at the next Thanksgiving dinner…
In Phoenix area, playing only at the Harkins Valley Art in Tempe.