MOM AND DAD (2017) is a delightfully trashy, gonzo, sort-of-a-zombie dark comedy about a mysterious signal that makes parents want to kill their children. It’s cartoonish at times, punctuated with hilarious moments, and far more poignant than it has a right to be. Where MAYHEM ably went with the modern office, MOM AND DAD hurls itself at the modern family.
Brent Ryan (Nicholas Cage at his zaniest) is Dad, struggling in the midst of a raging midlife crisis. Kendall (Selma Blair) is Mom having her own midlife crisis, frustrated with her teenage daughter rejecting her and finding out the job market doesn’t want her after setting aside her career for 15 years to be a stay-at-home mom. Carly, their daughter, is a stereotypical bratty teenager, who has a boyfriend that Brent doesn’t approve of because he is a year older than Carly. Josh, their son, is a playful boy who leaves a mess wherever he goes.
The opening credits kick off the movie with a Grindhouse vibe, promising it’s going to follow through on its dark premise, before we’re introduced to a typical day for the Ryan family. When the disorder strikes, parents line up at the school, eagerly awaiting their children. The authorities are already on to the pandemic and rush police onto the scene, and in the ensuing chaos, Carly escapes and tries to get home to Josh. Meanwhile, Brent and Carly, out for the day, rush home out of worry for their kids, whom they love more than anything and will soon want to kill.
The movie is shrill, clumsy, over the top, and ends with an awkward misstep, but I had way more fun with it than I thought I would. It’s not very deep, but writer/director Brian Taylor has something to say about the relationship parents have with their kids, that “You gave my life meaning, I love you more than myself” conflicting with, “I gave up what was left of my youth to raise you, and I lost my identity in being a parent,” suggesting all parents have a deep resentment buried in all that love.
In his film, Taylor clearly sympathizes with Mom and Dad, who are far better developed and outright funny. They’re zombies in a way, but only when it comes to killing their kids. Otherwise, the parents in this movie act like it’s an average day, which sets up a barrage of hilarious moments both big and small, such as Kendall giving a polite wave to an off-screen neighbor before resuming her hunt for her children. Mom and Dad share some bonding moments while trying to figure out a way to get at their kids, otherwise bickering the whole time like a married couple. The kids, meanwhile, aren’t very well developed as characters, particularly Carly’s boyfriend who’s there to alternately help and get his butt kicked, but this sets up a comedic conflict for the viewer: We sympathize with the kids because we don’t want them killed, but we empathize with the parents, whom we like far more.
In the end, MOM AND DAD has its missteps, but I just went with it and had a ton of fun watching it.