Parents (1989)

parents poster 1989 movie randy quaid
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Fun, dark comedy, more creative than expected

Would have made some story changes

Movie Info

Movie Name: Parents

Studio: Great American Film Limited Partnership

Genre(s): Horror/Comedy

Release Date(s): January 27, 1989

MPAA Rating: R

parents bryan madorsky randy quaid mary beth hurt

Have a nice helping of meat

Michael Laemle (Bryan Madorsky) is a picky eater like a lot of kids.  He doesn’t like the food his parents make.  Transferring to a new school, Michael’s school counselor Millie Dew (Sandy Dennis) notices Michael seems wrong…he has irrational fears and is secretive about his world.  Michael’s parents Nick (Randy Quaid) and Lily (Mary Beth Hurt) have their own secrets:  the food Michael doesn’t like to eat is not from the grocery.

Directed by Bob Balaban, Parents is a dark horror comedy.  The film was released to mixed reviews but has gained a cult following over the years.

I never saw Parents when it was new.  The cover of the VHS was too goofy and the fact that it was a dark comedy would have probably been lost on me anyway.  Though the “dark” part of the comedy is very unbalanced, Parents is a fun (if not sometimes frustrating) movie.

parents bryan madorsky randy quaid mary beth hurt cannibalism

We had liver last night…and kidneys before that…and tongue…

I do like the tone of the storytelling.  There is a lot of winks and nods to the camera surrounding wording and visuals.  It is surreal, and you honestly don’t know where the story will go.  Michael is already “doomed” in that he’s already a cannibal regardless if he doesn’t like to eat it.  It almost would have been better if the film was all an illusion of Michael and sequences like the ending would have been more on the line of “dark comedy” if that had been true.

The cast is good.  Randy Quaid does look like he could have fallen out of the ’50s while Mary Beth Hurt is a good pairing for him.  Though he wasn’t bad, I rather wish that Bryan Madorsky was more of a clean cut “shiny” kid with the dark side hidden within him.  Sandy Dennis is played up as the obvious sacrificial lamb in the script.

parents randy quaid mary beth hurt cannibalism

Most kids would kill for their own turkey leg…we’re giving you an actual leg

The movie not only smartly plays with the visuals of the time period, but there were some rather unusual shooting techniques that kind of elevate the movie above your standard ’80s movie.  Scenes like the spinning dinner room and some flashback/nightmare scenes were done well.  I wasn’t a fan of the slow-mo ending, but if the movie had been a delusion, this might have worked better.

Parents is worth seeking out, and I wish I had seen it sooner.  It has that camp nature, but it also is rather sly about it.  You can see why Balaban has done well in a wide variety of acting roles in addition to some fun directing.  I could actually see Parents being revisited someday to see how Michael turned out…and if he’s carried on the family tradition.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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