Director: Brian Taylor
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur
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Rats, cats and bears do it. Even birds up in the air, do it. Let’s do it; let’s kill our young. There are many reasons why Ella Fitzgerald never sang those words in her heyday: humans, after all, are better than the animals who inflict out such barbaric deeds upon their infants. But what if we weren’t?
That’s the lingering, unsettling question that fuels Mom and Dad, a barn-stomping what-if that poses a challenging idea in the most violent, riotous way possible. The film is conceived by Brian Taylor, formerly of Neveldine/Taylor, and you can see Crank’s DNA in the script’s relentless pacing and immediate acceptance of its absurd premise – namely, that adults suddenly become infected by a virus that causes them all to turn on their kids.
Why? Like his work on that Jason Statham adrenaline ride, Taylor isn’t interested in exposition: within minutes, we’re seeing a horde of parents clambering over the school gates to take their kids out in the least parental sense. Mom and Dad isn’t a scientific study of human nature: it asks a big question, then asks how that question can be used to craft as many depraved set pieces as possible.
That’s both the film’s strength and weakness: it’s flat-out bonkers, unerringly twisted and game to do anything for a laugh. That makes it a perfect vehicle for Nic Cage, who dials crazy up to 12 for his role as Brent, father of the Ryan house whose passions include building a man cave in the basement, and then smashing his work to bits with a hammer. If you’re tuning in looking for a Cage-Fest, you won’t be disappointed: by the halfway point, he’s grabbed a mechanical Sawzall from the cupboard and started carving his way through a door to reach his terrified offspring. “That means it saws ALL!” he cries, grinning maniacally.
Selma Blair is equally disconcerting as his wife, Kendall, not least because she starts out so calm and patient – and still ends up homicidal anyway. Together, they find some nuance in the way adults witness their dreams and careers hijacked by their children, a circle of life that some accept better than others. Is that animals take out their own gene pool? Because daddy bear didn’t get the chance to become a superstar footballer like he always wanted?
It’s once that interesting notion is raised that you wish Neveldine was more interested in the unspoken motivations and dilemmas that lurk beneath his hectic surface. Instead, he relies on Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur as the terrified kids, Carly and Josh, to bring him the visceral shocks on offer – alongside a superb Robert T. Cunningham as Carly’s well-meaning boyfriend, Damon. By the time the family dynamic has unravelled in the final act, the plot reaches inspired heights of hilarity and horror. It’s only the movie’s inability to wrap that unhinged chaos up in a spiky package that stops Mom and Dad from becoming a proper genre great. As a piece of satire, it’s forgettable. As a chance to see Nic Cage go crazy, though, it’s essential viewing.
Mom and Dad is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of a £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription – with a 7-day free trial.
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