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Film

#84: Mom and Dad (2017)

My name is Ed, and each week I play the lottery using numbers I’ve divined out of a different Nicolas Cage film. The first two weeks of starting to do this again have not inspired confidence that this is a worthwhile activity – not only did I get 0 matching numbers, but both films were complete crap. Nevertheless: Mom and Dad.

There’s a high concept here: one day every parent suddenly gets an inexplicable urge to murder their children – what happens next? I was slightly concerned because this is the sort of premise that’s fuelled much low budget, borderline unwatchable, at best limply ‘ironic’ shite and well, we are talking about a recently made Nicolas Cage film. But what I hadn’t clocked was that director Brian Taylor is the Taylor formerly of Neveldine/Taylor: though their Cage-starring effort Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance was not great, they were also responsible for the perhaps the definitive high concept film franchise, Crank (an action movie in which the main character must continually produce adrenaline or die).

While this doesn’t quite reach the 8-year-old kid on 38 packets of Skittles sugar high-intensity highs of Crank, there’s a lot to like about the slick, pacy comic book execution of this. I mean at this point my bar is low enough that ‘visible care about what’s on the screen’ seems like an achievement but this really does hammer home that these low budget affairs don’t have to be total garbage and the money isn’t the issue (astoundingly this – going by IMDB, anyway – actually cost $5 million less than Inconceivable).

Cage is no brainer casting: repressed suburban dad finally losing his mind and becoming a homicidal maniac is the kind of thing he was born to play, and though he’s not exactly stretching himself and it never feels as truly unhinged as you might hope, it’s a still a fun performance. It’s a good cast all round really and I found myself wondering why Selma Blair isn’t in more stuff these days – her ‘stressed mom trying to kill her children as though it’s just another of the endless chores of parenting’ is as good as anything Cage is doing.

The film wisely avoids bothering with a full explanation for why any of this is happening and sticks to teasing out the implications of premise – the ‘gag’ here is really that the determination to murder the children is only dialling up the feelings the parents have anyway – underlined early on with one abusive alcoholic father where the sole difference appears to be that the attempt to kill his son is no longer just a byproduct of his violent rages. This is broad stuff, but running with the logic of the idea works for the film and, just as you start to wonder where the hell all this is going, pays off with a very funny third act twist for the finale.

But the cynical, resentful version of parenting here feels a bit obvious – too pat to be really cutting. Hacky standup comedy as horror movie. It doesn’t miss the mark so much as it aims for slightly too big a mark to make sure everyone gets it, and ultimately ends up ringing a little bit hollow.

Still, for what it is, it’s a lot of fun, at 83 minutes it’s practically a short film by 2020 standards, and it isn’t Inconceivable.

THE NUMBERS

12 – At the school, some students are told to go to Chapter 12 of their textbooks.

13 – There’s a scene involving the building and destruction of a pool table and I think Cage at some point holds the number 13 ball – I think they put numbers on the balls in America to help them pick lottery numbers – up to the camera. Or it rolls past the camera? Or something? I can’t read my notes and couldn’t find it with a quick scroll through the film but I’ve picked it now.

20 – Back at the school, at one point we hear that there are 20 minutes left of a test “and the score’s pretty important to your future”. So obviously I took that as a sign.

24 – The family’s live at number 224.

45 – The dad’s family-orientated career decisions necessitated a drop of income from $145,000 to $45,000. Which seems like the wrong way around to do things because apparently you have to buy children loads of stuff like shoes and hats?

50 – 50% of piglet fatalities are caused by the mother attacking or crushing them, we’re told. Judging by the National Animal Disease Information Service this is technically true but mostly it’s them being accidentally because pigs are quite clumsy rather than porcicidal rage. Would I watch a film where Nicolas Cage keeps rolling over and accidentally crushing his children to death? Probably.

THE RESULT

Lottery draw: 2594

Date: Saturday 31 October, 2020

Jackpot: £2,305,915

Draw machine: Merlin

Ball set: 4

Balls drawn: 1,6,16,34,49,59

Bonus ball: 35

Numbers selected: 12,13,20,24,45,50

Matching balls: 0

Numbers selected (lucky dip): N/A

Matching balls (lucky dip): N/A

Winnings: £0 (£0 to date)

Total Profit/Loss: £-166

I am so angry about this that it is a good job that I don’t have any children who I secretly resent for forcing me to try and win the lottery in order to pay for their expensive Fortnites and Tik Toks!!!!

NEXT TIME ON WINNING THE LOTTERY WITH NICOLAS CAGE

His FIFTH film of 2017: The Humanity Bureau. I hope it is about one of those old-fashioned foldy-outy desks!