'Come to Daddy' Throws Fun Curveballs, but Can't Maintain Its Zany Pace Directed by Ant Timpson
Starring Elijah Wood, Stephen McHattie, Garfield Wilson, Martin Donovan
Published Feb 06, 2020Canadian-New Zealand coproduction Come to Daddy is the directorial debut of Ant Timpson, producer of horror anthology The ABCs of Death and the hilarious zombie metal comedy Deathgasm, films whose "anything goes" attitude and goofily gory spirit seem to have inspired Timpson's first feature. But while these films are fast and furious, Come to Daddy can't seem to maintain that same madcap energy.
Elijah Wood plays pretentious Los Angeles DJ Norval, who journeys to the backwoods of Oregon to see his estranged father (Stephen McHattie) for the first time in 30 years. The two have nothing in common, and their first few days together are stupendously awkward. Norval's dad is disappointed in his humble-bragging hipster son, and Norval is disappointed in his aggressively unhinged dad. Drinking turns to arguing turns to fighting, escalating into an accident. Stuck in a house full of secrets, Norval is forced to bumble his way around increasingly dangerous — and absurd — situations as he discovers his dad has more than a few skeletons in his closet.
McHattie and Wood have great dramatic and comedic chemistry, but Come to Daddy never regains the first half-hour's sense of bizzaro tension. But once things get crazier, Wood sells his character's petulant panic and shallowly buried resentment, and makes the best possible go of navigating the story's twists and turns as our sympathetic, yet frustratingly ineffectual, hero.
Visually and stylistically, Come to Daddy is unique and punchy, from the hauntingly beautiful shores of "Oregon" (filmed on Vancouver Island) to a neon-soaked sleazy motel to its Bollywood-infused soundtrack. But every time the film does throw a gruesome curveball our way, the pace flat-lines after a few minutes of promising action. The curveballs are entertaining, to be sure, but a lot of that has to do with the wry, goofy dialogue rather than what's actually happening on screen.
It's disappointing to see a film go to an endless number of wild lengths without truly feeling fun or exciting for more than a few moments. If Come to Daddy had managed to capture that zany pace and deploy it throughout the film, perhaps the tone would feel more consistent. But Wood's talents as a performer and a charmingly witty script (along with an incredible set — the '70s lakeside treehouse much of the film takes place in is a rustic homeowner's dream) make it at least worth a watch.