There are few people that epitomize the 1980s cinema world quite like John Hughes and Michael Keaton. In what was only their sophomore film efforts – Hughes writing and Keaton starring, they create one of the most endearing family comedies of the tumultuous eighties.
Keaton plays Jack Butler, the ultimate 1980s family man – loving father, faithful husband and working man, who of course at the beginning of the film, has very little time to spend with his family. After being laid off, he and his wife Caroline (the sadly underrated Teri Garr) begin to ponder their future, and when Caroline gets a job at an advertising firm, Jack is forced to become the stay-at-home mom.
These days, the father staying at home is not that odd of an occurrence, and there are more women working in the business world than ever. However, in the era of The Brady Bunch and Family Ties, a film like Mr. Mom was edgy and unique. The gender-role-reversal cliche is a well-known comedy staple now, and Mr. Mom was one of the films that helped bring it to the mainstream.
Michael Keaton ruled the 1980s – he was after all Batman. Even though he is having an amazing comeback right now, he faded away in the 1990s, because his brand of sardonic humor and deadpan masculinity was not a great fit for the progress of cinema. Mr. Mom was only Keaton’s second major role, and he does a great job playing Jack’s various transformations – from busy automobile engineer, all the way to bearded “housewife” who spends his days watching soap operas and playing coupon poker with fellow stay-at-home moms. It was a very progressive performance for a ’80s comedy, and Keaton does a great job handling the mechanics of the performance.
They simply don’t make films like this anymore. It has an important message to it – sometimes you need to slow down and look at what really means something to you, which in this case is your family. If made today, Mr. Mom would have all sorts of important social messages that would make you feel as guilty as much as you laughed. Mr. Mom is a perfect example of how gender rights should be treated on screen – Caroline was more savvy and intelligent than any of her male colleagues, and how Jack was a perfectly capable full-time dad. Both had to find their feet first (they weren’t perfect at their new jobs on their first days), but they were both able to do what the other had been doing for years reasonably well.
Mr. Mom is very predictable – you seem to know where everything is leading. Predictability in a film is my biggest pet peeve, because after a while, you can see a pattern in all films of that genre and calculate, to the smallest detail, as to what will happen. Mr. Mom did play it very safe at times, and even managed to cram in every family comedy cliche in existence in itself. Yet, it is still very much enjoyable, mainly because of the easy-going nature of the story, and how it didn’t make heavy accusations about society, and the way Hughes managed to make some brilliant one-liners that are still quotable to this day.
Mr. Mom is one of the funniest films of the 1980s, and if you read my previous review of Streets of Fire, you would know I was on the verge of writing off the entire decade. Mr. Mom rekindled my faith in the ’80s, and reminded me why we all love it so much.