Mom and Dad Review
In collaboration with Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor helped make some of the most distinctive American action movies of the 21st century - most notably, 2006’s Crank and 2009’s sequel Crank: High Voltage. Both films in this franchise embraced the ridiculousness of their conceits, but it wasn’t the tongue in cheek nature that saw these inspired B-movies get elevated above their peers. Neveldine/Taylor had the strangest visual sensibility of any mainstream Hollywood filmmaker during the time of their partnership; an OTT style influenced by video games, although with the craziness amped up even further than you’d expect a more restrained medium like film would allow.
The pair parted ways after directing an ill fated Ghost Rider sequel, but now Brian Taylor is back with his first solo directorial effort - and one that reunites him with his Ghost Rider star Nicolas Cage, no less. Instead of establishing his own unique style, Mom and Dad instead retreads the same over cranked combination of hyper-violent storytelling and kinetic visuals as his prior collaborative work. The surprise factor of the previous films is now absent, and the messiness of the storytelling (even by Taylor’s standards) only exposes the fact that no dosage of lurid style can compensate for a wasted central conceit.
The Ryans are constantly at each other’s throats; father Brent (Nicolas Cage) is currently feuding with his daughter Carly (Anne Winters) over her new boyfriend, with Carly similarly having a sour relationship with her out of touch mother Kendall (Selma Blair) and her irritating younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur). Carly’s plans for the evening are cancelled so they can all spend an evening with her grandparents - but during the school day, an epidemic breaks out of nowhere that puts all those plans in jeopardy. Parents across the country suddenly have the urge to murder their children, leaving Carly and her brother to fend for themselves against their suddenly maniacal mom and dad.
Likely due to budgetary constraints, the film is largely confined to the claustrophobic space of the family house after an establishing foot chase elsewhere in the neighbourhood. The silliness of the film (even at its most violent) means that there is no significant tense threat despite the suffocating nature of this setting and, even with Nicolas Cage front and centre at his most unhinged, I was still left wishing the film found a way to explore the outside world during this inexplicable pandemic to a greater extent. We get glimpses of news reports, and an appropriately grisly sequence at a hospital that echoes the similarly exploitative vibe of the most infamous sequence in Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, but nothing truly shocking that makes the conceit as memorable as it should be. It’s tastelessness is, at its most inadvertently, tasteful.
For a film that uses every trick in the B-movie book in its attempt to generate interest, including a suitably bananas performance from Cage, it’s almost remarkable how entirely dull the final product is. It’s reminiscent of the first Purge movie in that it establishes an exquisite B-movie concept, yet largely shields the viewer from the wider world where it could establish a greater sense of scale - and in turn, a greater sense of jeopardy for the young potential victims.
As an outrageous black comedy, the film mistakes profane non-sequiturs as the height of all humour; a mother talking about how she hates her “whore” of a daughter, or flashbacks involving Cage telling his young son about the sexual antics of his past. In the Crank movies, similar moments were suitably ridiculous due to Jason Statham’s deadpan line deliveries - when you have an actor like Nicolas Cage leading and setting an example for the cast, the craziness goes broad fast, and gets significantly less interesting because of it.
By the time Mom and Dad randomly cuts to the end credits just as it threatens to expand on its central idea, I was left bored and exhausted. It’s a film that feels reverse engineered for cult status, from its throwback B-movie opening credits to the incessant need to have Nicolas Cage do something “meme-able” every other moment he’s onscreen (one sequence, where he dismantles a pool table while singing the hokey cokey, has already achieved a midnight movie notoriety). It almost definitely brought the house down on the festival circuit - when watching at home, it’s merely exposed as being less than the sum of its considerable parts.
BONUS FEATURES: No bonus features were supplied for review.