Mom And Dad Gives Us A Taste Of Crazy Cage
Review by Aaron Haughton
Brian Taylor, who's best known as one half of the creative team that brought us the Crank films and Gamer, branches out on his own to serve up another fun and zany dark comedy thrill ride. Mom & Dad has enough adrenaline coursing through its veins to hang with the Crank films and boasts a wound up and rattled Nicolas Cage at his "Cagiest" since Bad Lieutenant, but ultimately lacks the hang time of Crank or Gamer. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it's a pretty rockin' good time as far as January fare goes.
Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star in this pitch-black horror-comedy about a worldwide mass hysteria of unknown origins that causes parents to turn violently against their own children. The film centers around Cage and Blair's children as they attempt to survive a wild 24 hours trapped in the house with one another until the effects of the epidemic subside.
Right from the start, it's obvious that the film is tonally and stylistically confused. The opening crane shot gives way to a 60/70s style title card before bursting into an oddly placed title sequence that feels like Taylor impersonating Tarantino impersonating Sergio Leone. The title sequence has an overall lazy spirit, and it comes across like a college student experimenting with footage (since it pretty much condenses the entire film that's about to unfold into a minute and a half sequence). Promptly after the title sequence concludes, we're thrust into the kind of sporadic and frenetic camera work, direction and editing that's more of the Crank style of filmmaking.
The film is unhinged in every possible way, which mostly works agains the its benefit. It dishes out so much style and is so all over the place story-wise that the whole production is very hit and miss. As soon as the film feels like it's starting to slip into a groove, it cuts away to a backstory or flashback element that pulls the film in another direction tonally, which in turns throws the pacing all outta wack. Even though the film can't quite find a pacing that feels organic, it does find its stride at times. The only real service the flashbacks give to the narrative is by giving us a deeper glimpse into the unfilled lives of our Cage and Blair, which does very little to forward the plot. In some ways it seems like Taylor is trying to justify a parents rage or provide deeper insight into their character, but it doesn't always work, and in most cases I wasn't buying it.
The setup to the hysteria that prompts the parentals to go nutzoid is also a bit hard to buy into, and nothing is ever fully explained. Although, very early into the movie and frequently throughout it's alluded that a mysterious TV static is causing the phenomena, which was very Infinite Jest-like, and aside from a few speculative news snippets, the deeper mystery is left unexplored. It's a wafer-thin cause for a berserk outbreak, but the reason for the events isn't why we watch these types of films, is it? No, we watch these kind of film for the chaos and carnage that ensues, and to the film's credit, there is quite a bit of that. Call me depraved, but as far as rated R films go, this one is pretty tame, and it seemed like the film was holding back on the violence.
One thing it manages to do right is building up towards the quality Cage freak outs, which we ALL came to see. They keep a tight muzzle on him until about the 40 minute mark. Then, they let him loose, and we're met with a few quality venom-spitting tirades, things about "dildo to ass," "anal beads," and his "Blue Bonnet butter waistline." Oh, and let's not forget: his demented and deranged rendition of "The Hokey Pokey," which feels suspiciously similar to the infamous filing and alphabetization rant in Vampire's Kiss in that it just keeps going. Despite the film's evident pratfalls, a few quality nuggets of Cage lunacy manage to steer this overly amped mess into the more enjoyable end of the spectrum. Blair adds some quality flair herself and carries the weight of the first half of the film, but make no mistake, this is the Nicolas Cage show, and the movie is his from the second half onward.
It isn't until late in the third act, however, that we get our first real dose of the crazy batshit insane. There's a very nice (but very predictable — also spoiled by allusion in the trailer) twist that kicks things into full gear, but it doesn't stick around for long. It's the kind of thing that you expect to happen around the midway point in a film of this nature and casually escalate crazier and crazier, but Mom And Dad holds it all back for the last 10 minutes. Then, it just peters out. And, to clarify, when I say peters out, I mean ends with an abrupt and grinding halt.
After everything's said and done Mom And Dad is an OK offering with a few thrills and some humorous and terrifying Cage meltdowns, but it lacks any staying power and is ultimately pretty forgettable. If you have a Nicolas Cage itch to scratch, this may hold you over until Mandy releases later this year; otherwise, if the premise or the Cage don't draw you, there's probably not much for you to sink your teeth in with this one. However, all faults aside, I have no regrets over the $6.99 on-demand rental price — it's totally worth 7 bucks to see new shades of Cage gone crazy.
Rating: 3 dad's in Misfits shirts outta 5.
What did you think of the film? Was there enough Cage to quench your thirst? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!