I was intrigued by the premise, mostly because it rang true with my childhood during a time when big heaping piles of mystery meat were served at every meal. But somewhere in the middle the film seems to forget that it is essentially a comedy and it turns a corner and never recovers. The second half of this is a bloody mess, more a freak show that anything else really, and I kept wondering what the point of it all was.
The only thing it really succeeds at is severely traumatizing young Bryan Madorsky and its audience. And speaking of Madorsky, he easily gives the best performance in the movie. I don't know where the filmmakers found this kid, but he really is the only bright spot in this dark and gruesome film. It leaves you with a lot of unanswered questions and a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
You never really learn why Mary Beth Hurt and Randy Quaid despise their son, or why they became cannibals in the first place. A backstory would have been welcome. Some would find "Parents" daring and different, which it definitely is. But it's sure not any fun, and it's not half as clever as it thinks it is.
Parents isn't an awful movie by any stretch. It's actually a pretty well made movie if I look at it from just that standpoint. If I look at it from the entertainment and enjoyment aspects of it, it didn't quite hold up. I didn't hate it, but it certainly didn't win me over in the end. It had a fairly interesting concept that kept the film going, but the way the events unfold is obvious, and the end result is less than satisfying. I can say that it was a good try because this could have been terrible, but it wasn't.
Parents centers around a family living in the suburbs during the 1950's. The story is presented in the way Fido would be. It's a dark comedy, horror movie mix. There's a ten year old boy at the center of the film who is starting to question his parents. There's obviously something off with them and he begins to get bigger and bigger evidence to this effect. He also won't eat his meat, which disappoints his parents because they are huge meat lovers. I was constantly waiting for a Pink Floyd reference about eating your meat, but unfortunately none came.
I will say that the direction by Bob Balaban makes this movie more watchable then I thought it could be. He does a good job balancing the social satire with the creepiness. Also the cast is rather interesting as well. Randy Quaid gives the best performance I've ever seen from him, and I also really enjoyed Mary Beth Hurt's performance as the loving mother as well.
In the end though, all this movie does is present its story in an interesting way. By the end, I was less then enamored with it. Sure it has some good stuff going on, but films like these need a little more to push them over the top and that little bit more was missing here. Plus when you label yourself as a Dark Comedy, then you have to deliver some laughs, and Parents just doesn't. The darkness was certainly there, but the comedy was no where to be seen. It also is labeled as a horror film. Well, it wasn't scary either. So it failed in both respects. Still I can't say not to watch the movie, because I didn't hate it all and I could see people easily being able to enjoy this one.
Its an odd one for sure, Randy Quaid is perfect as 'Dad' with that eerie joker-ish smile of his, Mary Beth Hurt accompanies Quaid well as 'Mum' to make a great kooky couple. The various scenes of eating dinner with close ups of the meat really does make you uncomfortable and your mind swings from judgement to judgement on wether little 'Michael Laemle's' parnets really are serving up human flesh for tea hehe.
Personally I could never really make up my mind if the whole thing was a dream or just a little boys crazy imagination, the film plays out quite surreal which keeps you guessing. Being set in the 50's really adds that kind of bizarre yet fun twist to it, almost impossible to think such things could happen in a perfect all American home in the happy 50's. The cute sitcom like soundtrack adds zing, makes the whole thing out to be almost silly, light hearted or even a kids film, truth be told the film gets darker and darker as it goes on yet your never really scared, more intrigued and curious.
A real cult oddity which works due to the brilliant performances of all the cast members.