It is so hard to capture a potential movie goer’s attention today. There are too many films to watch and a variety of ways to view them. Casting Elijah Wood as a delicate hipster with father issues is one way. Filling the movie with over the top violence and crude humor will draw even more eyes. Calling it Come to Daddy should get it over the finish line. Director Ant Timpson’s debut is as fun as it sounds. Regrettably, the plot wears thin towards the end.
Come to Daddy begins as Norval (Wood) tries to reconnect with his father. Norval seems to live a cushiony life complete with doting mother and celebrity endorsed iPhone. His father is less concerned with material possessions and status. What begins as a tense reunion turns into a bloody battle for survival.
Wood is amazing in the role. Norval’s attempts to impress his father are hilarious. From talking about his mentor Elton John to his matter of fact attitude concerning his party rocking abilities, Wood brings the right amount of douchebag humor to the character. Norval is played for laughs; the question becomes, is the audience laughing with Wood or at Norval?
What makes the part work so well is while Norval is written ironically, Wood plays the character straight. This leads to cringe comments that evoke pity and even a little bile towards the character. It is impossible to tell whether Norval is honest, oblivious, or trying too hard. Yet, he remains funny and somehow likable. This is one of the better performances of Wood’s career.
One of the reasons Norval is easy to like is his father’s initial attitude towards him. Stephan McHattie is wonderful in the part. He constantly mocks and threatens Norval. He refuses to explain why he wrote the letter asking him to come home and tries to convince the recovering alcoholic to drink. It is a toxic environment that helps to explain Norval’s attitude. McHattie’s performance is the right kind of uncomfortable.
Come to Daddy is more than just a story about mending a relationship, however. It is also a story about finding out why we love those who have hurt us most. The plot also delves into how far people will go to prove that love. This is a common theme in these types of films. Instead of going the typical, “you did that for me?” route, Come to Daddy takes a huge tonal shift after a shocking twist.
After starting as a darkly funny character study, the film heads more into uber violent exploitation territory. This works at first. The big reveal not only surprises, Timpson does not waste time patting himself on the back. He shocks the audience while never slowing the story down. The director wisely lets Come to Daddy slowly shift gears.
Unfortunately, the patient pacing does not last long. Granted, the first few times the plot ventures into gross out territory, it is just a matter of looking away. Instead, the movie morphs from moments that will make audiences wince to brutal graphic violence to over the top gore. It is a gradual progression that makes sense on paper. The problem is, everything happens in a short amount of time. It is impossible to take in or appreciate the spectacle. It all looks good and there are some genuine laugh out loud moments, but before long it all becomes tedious.
This also prevents audiences from fully understanding why Norval suddenly changes. The movie suggests it is about his mother. It almost makes sense and in a way, would bring the story full circle. What seems more likely, is the father – son theme was dropped in favor of the extreme turn in the film’s tone. The end result is a potentially interesting character arc is poorly delivered.
Come to Daddy is a hard movie to describe. Early on, it is a wrenching and tender look at a confused son trying to reconcile with his troubled father. It slowly changes into an over the top action movie. By the time it ends, it has become an exaggerated bloodbath. Each part of the movie has its strengths, but thrown together it is very confusing.
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