What if it's not young people who are the root of society's ills, as their elders so often complain, but the elders themselves? That's the question at the heart of the horror-comedy "Mom and Dad." But despite a glorious performance by Nicolas Cage as a vicious father, this vivid satire of a world turned upside down is marred by writer-director Brian Taylor's sloppy filmmaking.
The movie plays out over the course of one brutal day of parenting. Brent Ryan (Cage) and his wife, Kendall (Selma Blair), have the usual problems raising a teenage daughter, Carly (Anne Winters), and a young son (Zackary Arthur). Dad, for instance, insists that Carly stop seeing her rebellious boyfriend, if only because he remembers sowing his own wild oats in high school and doesn't want her dating the kind of boy he used to be.
As the day progresses, however, news reports begin coming in about a mysterious, widespread hysteria in which parents attempt to murder their children. Before long, the Ryans are firing up the power saw and chasing down the kids.
The greatest ham actor of his generation, Cage delivers one of his most vibrant performances in years. But it's in the service of poorly choreographed action scenes and a script in which the Ryans' midlife crisis is set up by an awkward flashback. Although this allows Cage to take a sledgehammer to a pool table — an impressive spectacle — it interrupts the film's grisly momentum.
Underneath all the sensationalism, "Mom and Dad" is a B-movie with a message, one that takes the theme of last year's Romanian art house drama "Graduation" to a Grand Guignol extreme: Adult corruption isn't just setting a bad example for our kids — it's killing them.
R. At the AMC's Hoffman Center 22. Also available on demand. Contains disturbing horror violence, coarse language throughout, some sexual material, nudity and teen drug use. 83 minutes.