Parents (1989) starring Randy Quaid, Mary Beth Hurt, Sandy Dennis, Bryan Madorsky, London Juno, Kathryn Grody, Deborah Rush, Graham Jarvis directed by Bob Balaban Movie Review

Parents (1989)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt in Parents (1989)

Knowing Looks

In many ways Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) is a typical young boy growing up in the 1950s, he may be a little quiet and withdrawn but like most children he has an active imagination especially when it comes to his parents. Every night when they cook up huge chunks of meat on the bar b cue Michael wonders where the meat is coming from especially as his parents keep on giving each other sly looks and begins to imagine that his parents are up to something.

Do you remember how as a child you would go to bed and hear your parents talking but not clearly enough to make out what they were saying. You were convinced they were talking about you, planning and scheming or moaning because let's be honest what else would parents have to talk about. And so the next day when something happens and they give you that smile and knowing look at each other you're convinced they are up to something. That is basically what "Parents" is about, it is about a young boy whose active imagination is fuelled by his curiosity over his parents and what goes on when he is not about, leading to this suspicion over the meat on the table being human.

Bryan Madorsky in Parents (1989)

Now there is no doubt this is a good idea as I know I did and I am sure many others had that feeling as a child that their parents were always up to something thanks to those knowing looks. The trouble with "Parents" is that it ends up all over the place not entirely sure what it is. There are scenes which feel like it is 1950s pastiche especially early on as it creates the scene with an amazing retro home. But there are moments of black comedy and then there is horror with a great scene featuring a sausage with a life of its own. But then there are strange scenes involving walking in on parents in the middle of love making and being completely oblivious to what they are doing thinking it is something scary. It sadly ends up a bit too disjointed with lots of clever ideas and scenes but not always working coherently together.

It's a shame because director Bob Balaban in his first big screen movie has done a wonderful job of delivering style, humour and horror. He's also got himself a wonderful cast with Randy Quaid and Mary Beth Hurt working well together as 1950s parents, the knowing looks they give each other are perfect. And then there is Bryan Madorsky who does have the look of a withdrawn little boy with a dark over active imagination.

What this all boils down to is that "Parents" has a lot of good ideas but doesn't quite bring them together in to one coherent movie.