Mom and Dad isn’t the first satire of the kid-first era of parenting―where adults’ lives are arranged around their children, rather than the other way around―but it’s likely the most comically vicious. Written and directed by Brian Taylor, the movie imagines an affluent suburban community where parents are suddenly, inexplicably overcome with the urge to kill their own offspring. It’s a blackly comic inversion of what one mother (Selma Blair) tells her teen daughter (Anne Winters) about her and her little brother: “It’s just, for me, you and Josh are everything.”
This is despite the fact that Josh (Zackary Arthur) and Carly (Winters) are spoiled brats. One of the funnier jokes in Mom and Dad is the fact that the kids aren’t very likable at all. When Carly steals $100 from her mom’s purse to buy drugs and Josh leaves a dead animal in his father’s beloved muscle car, we can understand their parents’ mounting frustration. From there, the movie makes the leap toward murder.
Mom and Dad is at its most diabolically funny when it mixes two common parental emotions: love and exasperation. When Josh’s dad (Nicolas Cage) aggressively tickles his kid early on, the music and camerawork depict it as an act of violence, even though both parent and child are laughing. Cage memes will undoubtedly be born of his climactic reading of the line, “Sawzall. Saws … all,” but the actor is actually pretty good in these earlier tightrope scenes, where his smile is friendly but his eyes are deranged. The best Nic Cage is a partially hinged one.
Overall, Mom and Dad prefers an unhinged aesthetic: extreme angles, antic zooms, a violent sound design. It would grow wearying if it didn’t also have such a wicked sense of humor. A birth scene, set to Roxette’s “It Must Have Been Love,” should be avoided both by Roxette fans and anyone with upcoming plans to visit a maternity ward. And then there is an ingenious, unexpected third-act development that leads to a wildly comic conflagration of intergenerational conflict. Possessive parenting can certainly be frightening, but it’s got nothing on Mom and Dad.