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Mom and Dad Review

"Isn't child death whacky?"
Mom and Dad is a very confused black comedy that squanders a decent premise and some solid work from leads Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair. What if one day your parents finally snapped, decided they've had enough of your attitude and tried to kill you? What if this happened with all parents, everywhere in the world? That's the story idea behind Mom and Dad, a black comedy that cranks generational conflicts up to eleven. The movie makes no real attempt to explain the reason behind the parents' murderous urges - somewhere, somehow, a switch is flipped and if you see your kid, you'll do everything in your power to end their lives. At the same time, Mom and Dad's main family - the Ryans, have all sorts of problems. Brent (Cage) and Kendall (Selma) are deeply unsatisfied with their lives. Brent hates his job and yearns for the freedom and energy of his youth, while Kendall feels trapped and unloved. Their responsibilities as parents are clearly at the heart of their frustrations, which seemingly sets up a motivation for them to want to kill their kids - which is at odds with the fact that the actual reason is not logical or personal at all. When Brent and Kendall do finally go after their own children in the second half, it's not because they've finally reached the logical endpoint of their arcs, it's because the movie has decided that they are now going be irrational murderers. This could have gone one of two ways - if the movie started with the Ryans being a ridiculously close-knit, unrealistically happy family that is violently torn apart when the murder-switch is flipped, the comedy could have come from the before/after contrast. Or, instead of a murder switch, Mom and Dad could have been a black comedy about two parents who want to kill their kids because they hate their lives. As is, this movie has the set up of the former, but the payoff of the later and the two just don't mix. The first half of Mom and Dad drags on quite a bit, as we are either given all sorts of information on the Ryans that will have no relevance later, or we just witness the escalation of violence as other parents kill their kids. The movie's idea of black comedy, for the most part, consists of playing upbeat music while violent, disturbing things happen. This may come as a shock, but that's actually not funny at all. A lot of the kills are pretty brutally straightforward, with parents beating, stabbing or choking their kids to death. It's not like there was an attempt to be morbidly creative or amusing with the murder method - the only source of 'comedy' is the inappropriate music played over it. Isn't child death whacky? The second half, a weird, brutal reversal of Home Alone is where the movie settles into more of a groove, with Brent and Kendall chasing their kids around the house. This is where all the fun stuff from the trailers happens - Cage running around barking like a dog, gas explosions, doors being torn down, the works. It's a shame the movie wastes so much time before getting to this part, especially since it's not very long to begin with. Much of what precedes it is neither funny or interesting. There a few pretty solid dramatic moments, but the movie's tone is so all over the place that they don't really stick. It's a little sad that Nicolas Cage, a talented and capable Academy Award-winning actor, seemingly only makes headlines these days for his bug-eyed, unhinged performances. True, nobody does crazy like Cage and it's not like the appeal of his going bananas act has worn off, but he can also do so much more. Case in point - the movie's best scene is a flashback to Brent's midlife crisis kicking in, as he builds a pool table in the basement. When Kendall confronts him about it, he goes off and smashes the whole thing to bits with a sledgehammer. It is, in some ways, a Cage freak-out, but there's also a lot more to it - it's also a somber, bitter reflection of lost youth. Both Cage and Blair are pretty terrific throughout, which is why it's so frustrating that Mom and Dad doesn't seem to know what direction it wants to go in. Some good ideas, solid moments and funny jokes are trapped in a movie that's generally unfunny or just plain confused. The word that best defines Mom and Dad is 'waste'. A waste of talent, a waste of a premise and a waste of time.
  • Cage and Blair are terrific
  • Has some really good moments
  • Premise has potential
  • Not very funny
  • Tonally inconsistent
  • Confused and aimless


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