Mom and Dad movie review: they’re giving the kids something to cry about

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Mom and Dad red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A brilliant, if demented, concept could have been The Purge for parenthood, but it is inadequately explored, and then abruptly dropped by a sudden ending. The entire third act of the film is missing.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

What if parents suddenly turned against their children, like, murderously? What if one day, out of the blue, the most fundamental of human relationships got inverted somehow, and instantaneously mothers and fathers everywhere started killing their own offspring — but not other children — in bloody, vicious attacks?

This demented concept is the brainchild of writer-director Brian Taylor, half of the “Neveldine and Taylor” team who gave us the unrestrained cartoon outrageousness of the Crank movies… but who also gave us the pointless nihilism of Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Gamer. Alas, Mom and Dad is more like the latter flicks.

“Honestly, Daddy murdering you with an axe hurts him more than it hurts you, honey.”
“Honestly, Daddy murdering you with an axe hurts him more than it hurts you, honey.”

What a shame that the potential of this idea is so badly squandered! Mom and Dad could have been like The Purge for parenthood, asking us to examine the state of the modern family from an unexpected angle. And there are hints of what that might have become. As Kendall Ryan, Selma Blair (Ordinary World, Hellboy II: The Golden Army) brings a weariness and almost a disgust with herself and the narrowness of her life as a mom; as her husband, Brent, Nicolas Cage (Inconceivable, Snowden) is barely contained fury even before that nurturing switch gets flipped. He sums up their predicament nicely when he laments to her, “I used to be Brent and you used to be Kendall, and now we’re just Mom and Dad.” The generalized awfulness of their teen daughter, Carly (Anne Winters) — she is all lies and petulance, and her peers are much the same — amidst the shock of grownups murdering their children could have been framed as a metaphor for that ever-recurring generation gap that leads to parents, and the culture at large, despairing of youngsters. What if — what if — we could simply eliminate this one particularly horrible generation? But the movie barely gets around to suggesting the question, never mind answering it or even exploring it. (Brent and Kendall’s young son, Josh [Zackary Arthur: The 5th Wave], looks more like a third- or fourth-grader than the babyish preschooler he is supposed to be. If that’s meant to be a commentary on how kids are too coddled these days, or something, it doesn’t work.)

Deeper matters — such as regrets about parenthood — are ignored in favor of a gorefest indistinguishable from countless other slasher movies.

Regrets about parenthood and grieving for the loss of identity that comes with it simply aren’t things we hear about in movies, or much of anywhere else, for that matter. But Taylor seems not to know what to do with what he has here, and any deeper matters that might actually spark a conversation about parenthood or even touch a raw nerve in the viewer quickly give way to mayhem and carnage for their own sake, and Mom and Dad becomes nothing but a gorefest almost indistinguishable from countless other slasher movies. Taylor likely thinks he’s being provocative and shocking — one sequence features a newborn baby whose just-postpartum mother attacks her infant — but the only truly shocking thing in the movie is how abruptly and ungratifyingly it ends. Mom and Dad has no third act, no resolution. It just stops before it has even scratched the surface of its own story.

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