When I sat down to watch Come to Daddy, I almost immediately gathered that it was going to be tonally diverse. It opens with a quote from Shakespeare, followed immediately by a quote from Beyoncé. And that’s a pretty good preview of what’s to come. The picture vacillates between over-the-top gags and moments of legitimate and heartfelt interactions between a father and son.
Come to Daddy is a film that (mostly) succeeds because of its cast of characters. A mustachioed Elijah Wood turns in a relatable performance as a man in his mid-thirties on a journey to reconnect with the father that left him as a young boy. Wood really sinks his teeth into the role and eagerly commits to some peculiar sartorial choices when bringing the outwardly hip but inwardly damaged Norval to life.
Stephen McHattie (who plays father figure Gordon) is more than a little unhinged in his half-assed attempt at being paternal toward the sensitive and soft-spoken Norval. Just watching the way he interacts with Wood’s character is almost too much to bear. But anyone on either side of a strained father/son relationship will appreciate the authenticity of the performances.
Kill List‘s Michael Smiley steals nearly every scene in which he appears as Jethro. Smiley plays his crude and foul-mouthed character with aplomb, gleefully reciting some incredibly choice dialogue. Of particular appreciation to this critic was when Jethro mispronounced the word ‘excrement’ and even after being corrected, continued to repeatedly mispronounce the word. Either certain he was right or not caring enough to say the word correctly, he certainly left an impression.
In addition to solid performances from an impressive cast of characters, I also have to give Come to Daddy director Ant Timpson credit for successfully juxtaposing two genres that we don’t often see together. The film is part arthouse and part grindhouse; laced with a healthy dose of surrealism. In that regard, the flick is a bit like Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. But the psychedelic color palette of Mandy is replaced with one that is much more muted (at least by comparison).
Timpson gives us a film that is both violent and legitimately heartfelt, another odd juxtaposition. But that’s a common theme throughout the picture. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I asked myself what the hell I was watching during Come to Daddy‘s runtime. More often than not, though, that works. The absolute insanity of the situations these characters find themselves in aids in furthering the surrealistic nature of the flick. However, given that there are some unforeseen twists and turns along the way, I don’t want to give too much away and spoil the experience.
As for what didn’t work for me, the picture’s over-reliance on bathroom humor and gross out gags was disappointing. A little of that goes a long way. Some of the over-the-top sequences are appropriate, even necessary to pay tribute to the film’s grindhouse roots. But Timpson gets carried away a couple of times. The toilet paper trail that follows one of the characters after he exits the restroom and the genital mutilation sequence are both prime examples of carrying things too far.
I also wish that the story had been tied up a bit more. There are a number of loose ends that would have made for a more satisfying viewing experience if they had been addressed. I would have really appreciated some visibility to the circumstances leading up to Norval’s arrival at his father’s abode, as well as a little more explanation provided for how things went south for Norval’s dad. In its current state, the film feels that it ends a bit too abruptly.
All in all, Come to Daddy is a bizarre and colorful feature that boasts strong performances from all of its key players. It gets a little too sophomoric at times but its successes outnumber its failures.
The home video release is shockingly bare bones. I was really disappointed with the lack of extras. For such a peculiar film, I would have loved the chance to dive into the minds of the creative team. Unfortunately, there isn’t any insight to be had. Come to Daddy is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and On Demand.
WICKED RATING: 6/10
Director(s): Ant Timpson
Writer(s): Toby Harvard
Stars: Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Michael Smiley, and Martin Donovan
Release: March 24, 2020 (Home Video)
Studio/ Production Co: Firefly Films, Blinder Films, Nowhere, Scythia Films, Saban Films