To be a parent is to, at some point in your life, find yourself overcome with the urge to blissfully murder your children. It may occur around the ten thousandth sacrifice one makes on their child’s behalf. It could be the millionth exasperated eye roll while their oh-so-breakable fingers hammer down texts on their iPhones (the bill for which you are paying for) that sets you over the edge. Perhaps the tenth time in a week where a simple conversation starter like “How was your day?” ends with them slamming the door in your face and whining that they never asked to be born that has you reaching for the chainsaw while speculating on where you could hide a body and if you could mimic their writing well enough to forge a run away from home note. Somewhere along the joyous highway that is parenthood, you’re going to wish that you stuck your baby making parts in a radioactive device that left you unable to spawn a little hellion.
That’s the appeal of Brian Taylor’s Mom & Dad. You get to vicariously live out your fantasies of smothering your brat nosed punk with a trash bag by watching parents tear through their off spring like a hot knife through butter. There’s not much set up to the movie. Instead you get 80 minutes of parents hunting down their children in a gleeful, murderous rampage. There’s a surprising amount of restraint when it comes to on screen violence for an R rated shocker. Most of the on screen violence consists of a clumsy parent tripping over their own two feet and cutting their Dad bods to shreds. It’s not until the last ten minutes or so that the violence really picks up, and even then it’s Selma Blair’s manic mom character spraying her bitchy septuagenarian mother in law in the eyes with mace that sets the whole thing off.
Mom & Dad manages to rise above its one note, jokey premise thanks to both Nic Cage and Selma Blair going all in. Blair in particular deserves a lot of kudos for managing to give Cage a run for his money when it comes to putting on the banana pants and getting ready to boogie down. We all know Cage can play unhinged in his sleep, and the visual of his mid life crisis dad character smashing a pool table to bits with a sledgehammer while bellowing out his laments for no longer being the 18 with great hair and a dick that could fuck for six days straight is going to be one of my favorites of the year. The always welcome Blair adds more pathos to her character as she realizes that all the zumba classes and iced mocha lattes in the world can’t replace the gaping hole in her insides as her teen daughter leaves her further in the rear view mirror. That she slides from sulky housewife to someone willing to roleplay Ichi the Killer on her children’s skull with the grace and ease of slipping into a warm bath is a goddamn please to behold.
There’s not much to say about the brother sibling duo here. They’re fine. Sure. Zackary Arthur shares a nice moment with Cage during a flashback scene, where Cage’s character gives a life lesson in how it’s all right to fuck up by relaying a story about crashing his dad’s prized muscle car while getting lap dance from his high school girlfriend. The kid does scared nine year old pretty well. Anne Winters does a good job making you hate her boorish, mean girl from jump street, but I never managed to find an ounce of sympathy for her and I’m not sure that’s the angle the film was pursuing. There’s also some uncomfortable casual racism found in the treatment of the family’s Chinese housekeeper. It’s meant to play for laughs, but it just feels out of place and uncomfortable.
Overall, Mom & Dad is better than the sum of its parts. It feels like it’s holding back at times, and I’m not sure if it knows exactly who its intended audience is. While violence against children is always going to be a touchy subject, for a movie about parents disposing of their kids there is less carnage than say, your standard 80s slasher film. Still, the sight of a bug eyed Nic Cage and a banshee wailing Selma Blair tearing after their kids with a sawzall is enough to bring a tear of joy and understanding to any of us who have had to make their bawling rugrats three different dinners because they hate everything you for them and only exist to bring you misery and regret.
At least, that might be YOUR experience with parenthood. MY kid rules. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.