Wheels here with a look at the latest offering from Nicholas Cage and Brian Taylor,
Raising children is not easy: sleepless nights filled with crying and sickness that leads into adolescent and teenage years of rebellion and disrespect. It can be thankless at best and aggravating, maddening frustration at worst. I know my own parents went through this and my friends and I, as we've reached parenting age, have felt the same. It's one of the cycles of life. We care for our children until they are ready to leave and start on having families of their own. They will then feel the same urge to strangle their disrespectful, annoying, or helplessly needy children that we felt and our parents before us. The thing is, those moments of rage and frustration are fleeting impulses, familial bonds are some the strongest ties in life and while every parent has those thoughts at some point, the urge to protect and care for your children is often much stronger...
What if that urge to protect disappeared though and all that was left was the urge to get rid of your child and reclaim your life? What if that became ALL you wanted to do?
That is the premise behind Brian Taylor's solo writing/directing debut, MOM AND DAD. Taylor came to notoriety as one half of the filmmaking duo Neveldine/Taylor (CRANK). They were collectively known for wild premises and ever more outrageous filmmaking techniques. Brian has taken the lessons he learned as part of that team and one of the biggest stars he worked with, Nicholas Cage (CON AIR), to craft a crowd-pleasing, over the top film that is just waiting to become a staple of midnight screenings around the country.
The movie's setting is a typically serene suburban town where Cage and his wife, played wonderfully by Selma Blair (HELLBOY) are raising their two children, Carly and Josh (played by TV actors Anne Winters and Zachary Arthur). It’s a day like any other, where Mom drops Carly off at school and Dad heads off to his job. While Carly is at school and Josh is with the babysitter, they begin to notice strange things, like why are some of their classmates missing and why are the parents eagerly waiting at the front gate so soon before school ends? It isn't long before pandemonium breaks out as the parents charge the gate at the school and begin attacking their children. As each parent seems only concerned with hurting their own offspring, Carly is able to escape back to a friend’s home where she thinks she'll be safe at least until Mom and Dad get there...
Carly and Josh are eventually reunited and with the aid of Carly’s boyfriend, Damon (a debuting Robert Cunningham), they work to survive the nightmarish scenario they’ve found themselves in.
The tone of the film is decidedly self-aware. Taylor teases Nicholas Cage freaking out in the earliest moments only to diffuse those moments as playful banter between a father and his children before things go awry. I saw this film with a packed audience and they ate up every tease leading up to the classic Cage mega-acting moments (that you know are coming just from the premise alone) and when they do happen, they are glorious fun. If you have seen the latest trailer for the film than you have witnessed Cage angrily singing the "Hokey Pokey" while dismantling a pool table with a sledgehammer. That alone should tell you if this is the kind of film for you. Myself and the audience I was with? We were fully on board with every crazy moment as Cage became a power tool-wielding cross between Freddy Krueger and Wile E. Coyote. Cage is having a blast in the film and if you like his sillier performances, you'll have a great time here as well.
Selma Blair brings an entirely different energy to the film to balance out Cage's mania. Early in the film she is tired and put upon and just trudging through her life as a mother. When the change happens in all the adults her tired energy turns into cold, calculating menace. she becomes the restraint to Cage's wild beat and she does legitimately chilling work in a few key scenes throughout the film. It takes a very strong actress not to be blown off the screen by what Cage brings to this film and Blair stands tall as his equal in every way and turns in just as memorable of a performance.
None of this would really work if we didn't care about the young actors playing Carly, Josh, and Damon. Thankfully, they all offer very naturalistic performances to help add needed weight to the craziness happening around them. They go from being terrified children to cunning survivors and they never feel anything less than authentic. That's a hard turn to pull off, especially for young actors, and they all do a truly wonderful job.
Brian Taylor's direction throughout the film has flashes of his hyper-kinetic directing past, but for the most part, his directing is assured and more stripped down, letting the performers truly be the centerpiece of the film. He also shows surprising restraint with the violence on display. Based on his filmography, you would expect this film to be a gore-filled romp and for the most part the violence, while edgy, is implied. This allows the film to walk a tightrope between humor and shock, while still delivering a genuinely crowd-pleasing experience.
The film has many moments and surprises that have not been spoiled by the marketing and it ends with a gag that had the audience I saw it with applauding with approval. This is definitely a film you want to watch with a house full of movie-loving pals when it becomes available.
That way you can all know why they call that power tool a "SAWZALL"...
MOM AND DAD will be available in a limited theatrical release and on VOD January 19th.