“It’s a Sawzall. That means it saws all.”
“This is a recurring joke in Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad, one delivered by both Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as they use a reciprocating saw in their attempts at killing their children. This is the kind of movie you’re sitting down for when you watch Mom and Dad, and while it’s not the best of its kind, it certainly has its shining moments of fun.
Rather efficiently avoiding any kind of explanation as to how or why anything in the film happens, Taylor creates a view of the modern world as seen through a Lifetime movie lens. It’s exactly the kind of teen-parent drama we’ve seen done a thousand times over, except this time, there’s a zombie-like madness that makes parents want to kill their children. These are logical zombies, able to fix a wound and deal with their own issues as they patiently wait to destroy their kids and one of the goofiest sequences reveals there’s no distinction between natural born child and child-in-law.
When the film goes for goofs, it takes it all the way, embracing the sheer ridiculousness of it all. This is a film that features a mother killing her child to casual jazz music followed by another scene in which the birth of a child turns into the attempted murder of a newborn. The latter is easily one of Taylor’s most grotesque and beautiful moments, with Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love” playing over the over the top scene.
The script peppers in discussions on savaging (in which a mother animal kills her newborn) and planned obsolescence (the designing of a product with an intentionally limited useful lifespan) for no reason other than meaningless decor. These asides, paired with cutaways to flashbacks for emotional context, often fall flat in a film that should lean toward the absurd. Mom and Dad is at its best when it loses all sense of logic, sliding comfortably into the hyperactive editing that Taylor (and Crank/Gamer partner Mark Neveldine) are known for.
Though the tonal shifts often kill the momentum, not quite indulging in B-movie violence as often as it should, Blair and Cage are a pair to be reckoned with. They roll through the monotony of life and work out their frustrations on each other and their children in the best of ways. While this may be seen as just another “Cage being crazy” movie, it’s Blair’s performance that’s the real stand-out, offering her moments of introspection and genuine worry alongside scenes where she gets to scream like a banshee and chase her children. It’s only a shame Mom and Dad doesn’t make use of them as much as it should have.
Directed by Brian Taylor; written by Brian Taylor; starring Selma Blair, Nicolas Cage, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, and Lance Henriksen; 83 minutes.
Mom and Dad opens on January 19th. In Miami, it will be showing at AMC Sunset Place.