Unfortunately, I’ve managed to contract the plague this week and have spent much of my day off feeling like shit and wallowing in self pity. Unable to focus on anything greater than trawling through Netflix looking for TBT ideas, I stumbled across some classic 1980s Michael Keaton. It should be well documented by now that I have a great love of Mr Keaton; particularly during the 80s. You know, when he was a young comic actor making slapstick comedies rather than depressing us with his attempts at feel-good Christmas films. The will 80s always be one of my favourite eras of cinema, despite the fact that most things look horribly dated by this point. This is mostly thanks to the time spent in my teenage years watching every John Hughes film I could and wishing I was Ally Sheedy. So it seems only natural that I’d love a film that combines the writing prowess of Hughes and the comic timing of Keaton. Right?
Mr Mom is one of those films that really hasn’t stood the test of time. It stands out against the kind of film that John Hughes has become so well known for. It is the kind of shitty half-baked concept you’d expect to see in a run-of-the-mill sitcom: man gets laid off from his job and is forced to stay at home with the kids whilst his wife returns to work in his place. All those classic gender stereotypes are present and correct as Jack Butler (Keaton) must get his head around laundry, shopping and housekeeping. Oh, men!
All the while his wife, Caroline (Terri Garr) must head to the cutthroat world of advertising with little expertise and no real qualifications for the job. All it takes for her to succeed and get an instant promotion is a pretty face and a housewife’s knowledge of the world. If jobs were that easy to get in the 80s I don’t see what everyone was always fucking whining about.
Of course, despite it’s overplayed and dreary concept, there could have been a lot of comic potential, especially with a leading man such as Keaton, in Mr Mom‘s set-up. Instead of all the naturally funny home-based capers that could have be relied on to raise a smile, Hughes instead goes down the zany route. We have a group of repair men and women who turn up at various points, Jack’s amorous neighbour, Caroline’s lusty boss, a psycho vacuum cleaner and the househusband’s soap opera fantasies. It just seems too desperate to bring the funny.
There is too much going on that distracts from Keaton himself. Despite a host of problems, Keaton’s performance is strong and, had he been given stronger material, this could have been another 1980s comedy classic. Instead, the script just clutches at straws and relies on big visual gags or wacky throwaway gags that go nowhere in particular.
There are plenty of things to enjoy about Mr Mom but, when you consider who wrote it, there can be no denying that it could have been better. There are some good performances but the material is just kind of underwhelming. In terms of entertainment it’s fine but nothing to get worked up about. According to its Wikipedia page, Mr Mom is now considered one of the best films of 1983. Well, if that’s the case, 1983 was obviously a fucking shitty year for film.