I saw Mr. Mom in theaters when it was initially released in 1983 and found it amusing. As a teenager this comedy about parents swapping roles and responsibilities did not resonate with me the same way it did to many adults. As I got older and saw the film as an adult, but still without kids myself, I was able to appreciate the humor of the situations more, but ultimately it did not resonate in the same way that it was meant to.
Flash forward to today and having watched Mr. Mom yet again, only this time not only as an adult but as a stay-at-home dad, well, my perspective is obviously quite a bit different.
Let’s get this out of the way – yes, the film is dated. There are things about the story that just don’t quite sit well with modern audiences, and certainly some of the jokes, but overall it still holds up pretty well. Actually, because much of the humor is personal in situation, Mr. Mom is still highly effective.
Michael Keaton is Jack, a man who loses his job at the auto plant. In order to make ends meet his wife, Caroline (played by Terri Garr), reenters the work force for the first time in years leaving Jack at home with the three kids including a baby. Because Jack has left the child rearing duties to his wife he is relatively clueless when it comes to the day-to-day operations of running a house.
Dealing with the kids and their school provides much of the humor. Jack is the stereotypical bumbling father, and while many of the jokes and situations may seem overblown, perhaps even unrealistic or cliche, but they are rooted in some sort of realism that makes it seem less like a caricature than some critics would have you think.
As a stay-at-home parent myself, I understand many of the situations Jack goes through. While I was never as incompetent as Jack is at the beginning of Mr. Mom, I can sympathize with how he finds himself in over his head. There’s the part about school pick up and drop off which rings true, and while I walk my kids to school every day, there is a procedure to follow with regards to cars that can be easy to mess up if you don’t know it.
What I really like about Mr. Mom is that Jack learns from his mistakes and grows as a parent and a person throughout the film. By the end he is the stay-at-home dad that is probably more typical today. I know many stay-at-home parents and their experience isn’t like Jack’s at the beginning of the film, but much more like the last part of Mr. Mom.
One of the ideas I had for my blog was a take on the title Mr. Mom, which some stay-at-home dads find demeaning because they see that title as a continuation of the idea that only mothers can properly take care of their children. But that doesn’t show the growth Jack goes through, the growth that all fathers have gone through, not just since this film has released but as a society we all have gone through over the last few decades.
Mr. Mom is a comedy, it is supposed to present outrageous situations for us to laugh at. Some stay-at-home dads are feeling, and not unjustifiably, offended that this is an accurate portrayal of their life. The image of the bumbling dad is one that is still with us. It is a shame, really, because as the movie progresses we see Jack become not only a competent caregiver to his children but relishing and being comfortable in his role, something all parents, working outside the home or not, need to recognize and remember.
Besides, Michael Keaton is just plain funny. Actually, this is a great cast. Terri Garr is in probably one of the best roles of her career here, with Martin Mull and Jeffrey Tambor doing stellar work as their bosses. Then there are supporting cast members Ann Jillian, Christopher Lloyd, and a few others who you might recognize if you watch many films or television series from the 70s and 80s.
This Blu-ray comes with a reversible insert for the cover. The default cover is alright, but the original movie poster was better and the other side of the insert offers up an image taken from that. Special features are short, only one featurette looking back at the film and none of the main cast are present. Still, it’s a decent piece, but does not take the place of an audio commentary.
John Hughes wrote the script, and that’s something I didn’t know. That sort of explains quite a bit about the film. John Hughes was always strong on characters, which is why his “teen” comedies from later in the decade still stand up to this day.