Making 42nd Street Proud: The Gonzo Exploitation of Mom and Dad
Is Brian Taylor’s solo directorial debut, Mom and Dad, one of the most anticipated movies of 2018? Well, probably not for everyone, but around the Ghastly Grinning offices it sure is! So much so that our three editors decided to get together and review the film as a group! Mom and Dad arrives theatrically and on VOD tomorrow, 1/19, and on DVD/Blu-Ray on 2/20!
How would you describe this film to someone?
Kieran Fisher: A movie where Nic Cage plays a filicidal father who smashes up a pool table with a sledgehammer while singing “The Hokey Pokey.” I think that sums it up pretty well. Selma Blair is in it too and she’s understatedly wonderful, but this is a Cage vehicle through and through.
Jacob Trussell: Once upon a time Brian Taylor’s child probably said something like “Ugh, you never let me do anything! I hate you!” and in that moment it became clear to him: “I can’t murder a child, but I can make a movie about it.” It’s a film about a family already on the edge of erupting, passive aggressively. But soon...AGGRESSIVE AGGRESSIVELY!
Ryan Larson: Remember the guys that made Crank? One of them made a movie about Nic Cage and Selma Blair trying to murder their kids. That usually gets people interested.
What’s your initial take on this film?
Kieran: Taylor is letting off some steam here. I don’t have children, but from what I understand that they’re annoying, needy assholes until their adult years. It must get frustrating at times. I don’t think he dreams of killing his own kids, but to me this is a commentary on the frustrations that arise from raising kids, delivered with that outrageous and over the top Taylor humor we know and love.
Ryan: Dark humor. Over the top violence and comedy. A cast firing on all cylinders in a suburban setting. What’s not to love? I saw the film as a way for director Brian Taylor to finally show off his solo directing chops. He reminds us of the adrenaline fueled pacing and action of his former efforts but is able to bring some nuance to the table. Taylor is specifically focusing on how raising kids changes you but broadly looking at aging in general and how it tones down your behaviors and activities, then pushing the idea of “blowing off steam” into hyperbole. It’s a cartoon come to life in all the best ways. It’s the segment in The Simpsons where Homer chokes Bart but in an enthralling movie format.
Jacob: While Liam Neeson may have starred in a film called Non-Stop, this film actually lives up to the title. When two visionary directors work as a team it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. No shade to Mark Neveldine, but in terms of what Mom and Dad showcase, the exhilarating experience that is Neveldine/Taylor’s filmography is wonderfully retained in Taylor’s solo work. To piggyback on Ryan and Kieran, “blowing off steam” feels like the perfect subtitle for the film as well (or whatever sequel I am sure is already being discussed). Through fantasy smash cuts of Nic Cage as a younger man, (or his egotistical id for all my genre theory purists), desiring to be motorboating a topless women while doing donuts in a dragster. It’s a Mid-life Crisis wet dream. Even in the overt usage of contrasting music/imagery in otherwise harmless scenes, like an insidious play fighting scene between Cage and his son, it feels like Taylor's personal frustrations of being a parent (which I’m sure are, to a lesser extreme, shared with all parents) are being excised on screen.
Who do you think this film is made for?
Jacob: Honestly, I came up with this question and I don’t even know. Frankly, I kinda feel like it’s a film that’s fun for the whole family, pun totally intended. Really, it’s kind of a catchall. It’s got something for everyone. Gratuitous gore? Check! A very on the nose satire of 21st century parenting? Double check.The most unhinged Nic Cage performance, which is hard to argue is anything but wonderful? All. The. Checks. I really hope it’s as well received as I imagine it to be.
Kieran: To reiterate Jacob’s point, this is a movie families will have fun watching together. Parents get annoyed at their kids and adolescents go through phases where mom and dad are considered enemies out to ruin their life. This takes these notions and has a lot of demented fun at their expense. Genre fans will love it, naturally, but I think this will have some crossover appeal.
Ryan: Everyone. What Joe Lynch did with Mayhem and the frustrations of office work life, Taylor is doing with Mom and Dad. We all have siblings or kids or some dumb cousin who has annoyed us at one point or another. We never want harm to come to them but this is an exaggerated form of comeuppance. On a deeper level, I think it’s a little bit about jealousy that when done right, our kids are going to have it so much better than we did, and that’s what we want. But gosh darn it, don’t we wish we had some of that growing up too?
On a scale of Loves Bites to Spirit Of Vengeance, how much of a "Cage Match" is this?
Kieran: It’s not the nuttiest of Cage performances, but it’s pretty wild and contains some of the best “Cage Rage” you’re ever likely to see. It’s a very self-aware performance and Cage and Taylor give us exactly what we want to see, so fans of their respective hyperactive styles will not be disappointed.
Jacob: I’m a Cage purist. I honestly don’t think he’s ever done anything you can describe as a bad performance. Through varying shades of extreme, all of Cages performances are hypnotic in their unpredictability, leaving us always on our guard and being surprised. When we’re surprised, typically we’ll laugh. So, Cage makes us laugh. And in this movie he’s never made us laugh harder. For starters, this is a line said without any irony in the film: “Ass to ass, Mouth to dildo, dildo to ass.” Cage pauses contemplatively “Anal beads...things I only saw in MAGAZINES!” And while Cage may be constantly dreaming of sex, from the preteen fantasies of muscle cars and blondes, to just randomly hearing sex noises in his dream, when it comes to how he deal with this murderous midlife crisis, what does he do? He dons a Misfits T shirt and jeans and builds...A PERFECTLY LEVEL POOL TABLE. Not build a classic car, take up Cross Fit, start a band...nope. Not Cage! He builds a game room. His GROWN UP ZONE! Or family room. It’s kinda for him but its not. Nic Cage does not need to make decisions! We get the aforementioned improv hokey pokey magic, but the biggest takeaway for me and Cage in this? He’s playing a genre film version of Death of a Salesman over here. Of the things that The Cage says his Younger Catch was: 100% sex. Things The Cage says he currently has: A Blue Bonnet Butter Waistline? I don’t know either, but in the poetic rambling of Cage I kinda like it. “Oof, mate, gotta hit the gym I’m getting a B³ over here!”
Ryan: I’ll swerve slightly from Jacob and just say that I’ve seen some stuff that Cage has done and thought it was phoned in or on the contrast, it was over the top for the sake of being over the top. I think he’s a really fun and talented actor and is so well known for his movie persona that when a director can’t reel him in, he takes advantage of it and pushes it to the brink of insanity. This is Cage doing what Cage does best but with a director who he meshes with so they find that necessary balance. Right before he blasts through the wall in an explosion of high pitched, clawed hand absurdity, he dials it down into a much more believable extremity.
Is this movie going to offend people?
Kieran: I hope so, but it’s all harmless fun and its tongue is firmly planted in its cheek throughout. I think people with a sense of humor will see that, and those who don’t will probably just dismiss it as mindless nonsense. That said, if the idea of a movie where parents killing their own children is the main premise is offensive to you, then it’s possible that Mom and Dad will get under your skin.
Ryan: It’s pretty black humor but I think anyone who has ever watched a dark comedy or horror comedy will understand what they’re getting into. Let’s put it this way. People may act offended but deep down, a little part of them is viewing this cathartically.
Jacob: It will, but it shouldn’t. The song “Chains of Love” by Erasure is used during a scene later in the film where Nic Cage gets a knife in the ass. The combination of this song and what we’re seeing on screen is just...its stuff like this why we go to the movies right? It’s like eating a meal with conflicting flavors, or like the first time you had salt on cookies. Most all of this to a normal film goer wouldn’t work, this would be too over the top, too crazy silly, the premise to laughable. But there’s a reason why a film like The Happening works to a minor degree, and it’s because that grab bag of bonkers it’s really hard to peel your eyes away from. The very literal embodiment of “Must See” entertainment. Because that’s the only way you’re going to be able to believe it. While the humor and horror of the children-in-peril subgenre may be off putting to some, there is nothing harmful in this movie. To second Ryan, yes, people may not want to admit it...but this movie gave them some parents a cathartic release. And THAT my friends is why horror movies are important.
How would you get someone excited to watch this?
Ryan: Oh man, I already have. I just tell them that it’s Nic Cage at his most CAGE but in the best way, not the worst. The more movies that drop with Cage, and the more the directors give him carte blanche to go fully off the rails, the more he becomes mockable rather than admirable. It’s when you get a director like Taylor that restrains him when needed that he’s a god damned spectacle. So I just ask people “do you want to watch a movie with Selma Blair and Nic Cage where they contract some weird disease that makes them want to murder their children and Nic Cage gives the best performance he’s given in the last ten years, breaking apart a pool table while singing an explicit version of ‘Hokey Pokey’” and the answer is always a resounding yes.
Kieran: I’d once again reiterate that Nic Cage loses his shit and smashes up a pool table with a sledgehammer while singing a beloved children’s song. If that doesn’t appeal to them then this isn’t exactly the movie for them. And to be honest, I don’t think I’d be interacting with someone who doesn’t want to see that happen.
Jacob: If for nothing else, NOTHING else for the score by Mr. Bill. I’ve never heard of him, he’s hard to google without getting hits for the claymation character from the 80’s that I’m sure few remember. Also the contrasting soundtrack is utilized beautifully with a folksy song scoring the opening bleak moments to blaring bossa nova as parents off their kids. Other parting thoughts: There's a certain way that Nic Cage says motherfuckers with an uptick in his inflection that feels like the perfect micro universe of Cage. He is the perpetual actor, staring into the mirror, finding not just a few different takes on a line, but realizes that there is an infinitesimal amount of options because we as humans never know how we will react at any given moment. HIS HIGH KNEES! After the “Family Room” scene Cage stares directly into the Camera and ask: “Does any of this make any sense to you at all?” He slinks down a wooden post, his path of destruction at his feet. No, my man, but it don’t matter.