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The Tao of Nicolas Cage: ‘Mom and Dad’ Just Don’t Understand

Nicolas Cage channels his nurturing parental side and releases some rage on his kids in Mom and Dad, the newest film from director Brian Taylor.
Mom And Dad
By  · Published on January 19th, 2018

If you’ve read this column before or spent more than 10 minutes talking to me, you know that I get pumped for every new Nicolas Cage movie. In fact, this column would not exist if I didn’t. I love to share that excitement with others, so I’m always telling everyone I know about the newest Cage flick in production. For the last decade or so most people haven’t been interested.

I try not to get upset, despite the fact that large portions of the movie-watching public are ignoring America’s greatest living actor. I do my best to talk the film up. I try and sell people on the fact that in this film he escapes from Hell to save his daughter from a cult and in this other movie he and Elijah Wood play a bumbling pair of Las Vegas cops attempting to pull off a heist. Occasionally I’m able to create a little interest, and every once in a while I convince someone to watch a Joe or a Dog Eat Dog, but most of the time it all ends in mild intrigue at best.

For the past year, I’ve been telling people about Cage’s newest movie, Mom and Dad. The responses to this film have been different. It has a bit of a buzz, and people want to see it. Maybe it’s the plot that sees a strange epidemic breaking out that results in parents wanting to violently kill their own children. Or perhaps it’s because playing opposite Cage is the incredibly talented and equally punk Selma Blair.

Whatever the case may be, folks want to see Mom and Dad, and I’ve been right there with them. I’ve finally seen the film, and I’m happy to report that it is indeed fun.

Cage and Blair play a typical suburban married couple. They have a teenage daughter, and a son that I’m going to guess is about 7. They live their lives as if they’re a boring song stuck on repeat. Get up in the morning, take the kids to school, go to work, come home and do it all over again the next day.

The film takes place on a day that appears to be the same as any other. It takes a dark turn when suddenly parents develop the urge to murder their children. Why this happens nobody knows, but it affects parents everywhere. Cage and Blair aren’t immune and head home to dispose of their kids. Having become aware of the situation, the kids are ready to defend themselves, and the fight for survival is on.

Mom And Dad

If you’re familiar with the previous work that director Brian Taylor has done, you’ll know that everything he touches is full of frenetic energy. The chaotic madness of Mom and Dad is no different. Everything is bouncing off the walls, but there is an order to it all. It’s chaos, but organized chaos.

The best part of Mom and Dad is the casting of Cage and Blair. They have great chemistry together and I can’t think of any other actors better suited to play in this film. As parents they’re supposed to be mundane and vanilla but it’s clear that in their younger days they were cool and hip. Before the murder-inducing rage takes over both struggle with a bit of a midlife crisis as they both try to determine where their lives went wrong.

Cage has a scene where he destroys a pool table with a sledge hammer while singing the hokey pokey. You describe any other actor in that role and it sounds crazy. For Cage it’s just another day at the office. And this isn’t just Cage at 100 the whole time either. Yes he gets there, and rather quickly, but he does mix it up a bit and you can see elements of his past performances show up in quick, little bursts.

“Cage is kind of like the ultimate guy for this movie,” Taylor recently told me. “First of all, being a dad, I think drives everybody a little bit crazy and you know even without the conceit of the movie just everyday dad you know, you find yourself getting a little bit unhinged in many ways.”

Cage’s performance is made all the better because Blair matches him every step of the way. Taylor was quick to agree with this.

“Those were two actors that I felt were absolutely perfect for this because both of those two, you can dress them up conservative and you can put them in their roles as sort of traditional mainstream suburban American parents but it doesn’t matter how much you dress them up, both of those two you know underneath the surface, they’re punk rock. And there’s something off, and that’s the quality with both of them that you wanted for these roles. Yeah, its mom and dad, they’re boring, but it’s like, are they?”

My biggest complaint with Mom and Dad is that I wish it was 10-15 minutes longer and went even crazier. And that’s not to say it isn’t crazy, because it is plenty crazy, especially when Lance Henriksen shows up. The last 20 minutes or so is completely bonkers, but I would have liked just a tad more. With that said I understand the logic behind it all.

The film maintains a darkly comedic tone throughout. The situation on hand is quite disturbing, but it’s presented in a humorous and even slightly lighthearted way. Taylor achieved this by keeping the film balanced. It’s too serious to be too silly, but too silly to be too serious.

I’ll continue to tell everyone that will listen, and even many that won’t, about the new projects Cage has in the works. Odds are they’ll continue to not really care. And that’s all fine and well because at least now I can tell them that Mom and Dad, the one recent Cage movie that they haven’t entirely brushed off, is worth their time.

You don’t say?

When I spoke with Brian Taylor recently to discuss Mom and Dad he was kind enough to share with me his favorite Cage movies. Taylor broke them down into two categories —- favorite Cage movies and favorite Cage performances.

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Chris Coffel is a contributor at Film School Rejects. He’s a connoisseur of Christmas horror, a Nic Cage fanatic, and bad at Rocket League. He can be found on Twitter here: @Chris_Coffel. (He/Him)