Full Disclosure: I love Nicolas Cage.
The question I pose to people who do not understand my unwavering love for the #OneTrueGod is “if you were put in the exact situation his character is in, how would you react? Probably the same way he does.”
Everybody loves Cage for his random outbursts, and don’t get me wrong, I do too. But what makes him compelling for me, is that his performances bring out reality of the character’s situation. There is no shame in admitting that Cage has not had a great track record as of late. We are still searching for the Cage of old, whether that be Moonstruck Cage, the Oscar winning Leaving Las Vegas Cage, or the 90’s action star Cage of Face/Off, The Rock, and Con Air. With director Brian Taylor (Crank, Gamer, Jonah Hex), he teams up with Cage since the… “unique” 2012 sequel Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, to not only get the most memorable performance by the actor since Kick-Ass, but the meme-Cage that modern mainstream audiences have come to know and love. Seeing Mom and Dad definitely felt like the Midnight Madness crowd had been compensated after sitting through Paul Schrader’s abysmal Dog Eat Dog that played at TIFF the previous year which starred Cage and Willem Dafoe.
The premise of Mom and Dad feels like The Purge, but if the parents were trying to murder their kids for 24 hours, and this disturbingly high concept idea is executed brilliantly. Taylor toys with the idea that somewhere deep inside, parents have always had the thought of wanting to kill their kids, even though they love them. Although the cause of what makes the parents turn to their animalistic instincts is not explicitly stated in the film (a vague high frequency static signal,) it’s not like they need a specific reason to have the kids try to reverse the effect towards the end, and the movie is better off without justifying it.
Brent (Nicolas Cage) and Kendall (Selma Blair) are parents who are both at a crossroads dealing with their own respective mid-life crisis. Brent, still trying to be the fun dad, yearns for the days of his youth before he had kids, while Kendall sacrificed her career and friends for a family that no longer appreciates her, all while struggles try to relate or even have proper conversation with teenage daughter Carly (Anne Winters.)
When Carly’s high school experiences the first outbreak of parental mass-hysteria, she fears that her younger brother Josh (Zackary Arthur) is in danger from their mom and dad. The film takes a while for the effects of the unknown element to affect Cage and Blair (there’s a tense sequence where Blair’s sister gives birth, only for the sister to suddenly try to smother the newborn to death few minutes later,) but when they snap, the tense hilarity goes to 11.
After Carly and Josh lock themselves the basement to defend themselves from their parents, Cage’s performance goes from manic, to “coo-coo for Coco Puffs” crazy, providing a smile on this viewer’s face for the rest of the film. There’s a great flashback scene to three weeks prior of these events, where Brent, in mid-life crisis mode, builds a pool table in the basement without his wife’s knowledge. After she finds out and questions this impulsive purchase, Brent snaps at her and proceeds to destroy the table in the only Nic Cage could, with a sledgehammer while singing the Hokey Pokey.
Blair also deserves a lot of praise for this role, which is something Cage went on and on about during the post-screening Q&A. She not only plays a caring and loving mother, but she compliments Cage’s energy so much that if they made acting awards for films like these, they would sweep.