• Mr. Mom



    Released By: Shout Select
    Released On: September 5, 2017.
    Director: Stan Dragoti
    Cast: Michael Keaton, Teri Garr, Ann Jillian, Christopher Lloyd, Jeffrey Tambor
    Year: 1983
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    When we view a film such as D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation, we are able to appreciate Griffith's style and technique, while we marvel at the idea of what was an acceptable point of view 100+ years ago. And not that anyone in their right mind would compare the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to the birth of the stay-at-home dad, but I experienced a similar kind of revelation when watching 1983's Mr. Mom for the first time in decades; oh yes, that would have been a big deal back then, because men looking after the kids while their wives went out and earned a living was essentially an alien concept 30+ years ago. Alien, enough, however, that writer John Hughes and various producers including Aaron Spelling decided that it was an idea worth basing a comedy around.

    Jack Butler (Michael Keaton) and his wife, Caroline (Teri Garr) live in a comfortable house in a comfortable Detroit suburb, where Jack makes a comfortable living as an Engineer at a large automobile factory, and Caroline looks after the house and raises their three young children, Alex, Kenny, and Megan. "Swimmingly" would be an optimal word to describe the Butler's lifestyle, until Jack gets a rude awakening down at the plant, when the Head Office orders his boss (Jeffrey Tambor) to hand out pink slips to Jack and his team. Jack's initial fury eventually gives way to acceptance and a short-lived bliss, realizing that with his severance package and profit-sharing still intact, his family will be able to coast along Easy Street until other employment comes along.

    1980's Detroit, however, has other plans for Jack, and he finds himself in interview after interview, going up against the same group of men who know that they have no chance in hell of securing any job that will pay them anything near what they were making prior to the layoff. Throwing caution to the wind, Caroline decides that it's time to step up to the plate and make use of her degree in advertising, a concept that does not sit well with the manly Jack. But money talks, and soon the lady of the house is sitting in the smoke-filled pitch sessions of a downtown advertising agency presided over by Ron Richardson (Martin Mull), a genuine prick of a boss who takes a leery liking to the new executive.

    Of course, there's no humour to be found in the story of a bitter man, self-emasculated and pissy that his wife is bringing home the bacon...but there ARE laughs to be found when the domestic chores and simple tasks of child-rearing are handed over to a guy who has no idea what he's doing. Grocery shopping? Forget about it! Jack loses his kids, confuses them with other kids, buys the wrong things, and can't seem to buy anything from the deli counter without holding up a bunch of angry housewives. Cleaning? No way! Not with a vacuum nicknamed JAWS, that has a mind of its own and wreaks havoc on the house and the children. And while Caroline is jetting across the nation on a private plane with her sex-obsessed boss, Jack is adding too much soap to the washing machine, suffering the indignities of buying tampons, and burning down the house trying to cook simple suppers for the kids.

    As Caroline finds her self-esteem and becomes empowered in her new role, her disdain for Jack, who quickly settles into a messy life of self-hatred and half-assedness, grows to the point where she doesn't recognize the man that she once fell in love with. And with her boss' intentions becoming more and more apparent, Caroline ventures closer to the dark side where accolades and financial rewards are plentiful; and Jack's new role as Mr. Mom places him in the clutches of sex-starved, middle-aged housewives, fuelled by the fantasies of their daytime soap operas.

    When trying to figure out what it is that's notable about Mr. Mom, what made it funny in 1983 that allowed it to remain relevant...well, really, there's nothing. Mr. Mom is one of those movies that exists in a certain time, that nostalgia allows us to remember fondly, but that we should never, EVER revisit, because it will ultimately end in disappointment and heartbreak, like taking the opportunity to date a crush from high school that wouldn't give you the time of day when you were a teenager. It boasts and extremely talented cast; Keaton, Garr, Tambor and Lloyd, but the latter two are given nothing to do in the film. We don't see much of Garr, here, and she only really shines in the first 15 minutes and the last. Keaton is the lone Atlas in Mr. Mom, carrying the film with his charisma and other abilities, making us feel bad for him as his wife shrugs off her familial responsibilities in order to chase down a career. One scene in particular, as Jack is left standing with his kids on Halloween is particularly heart-wrenching, and by god, if they could've made the whole film this powerful, what a film it would have been.

    Instead, with the universe the way it currently is, Mr. Mom is left to rely largely on the gags. Fire in the kitchen. Soap suds in the basement. Man out of his element, trying to exist, and failing. Things that later films would incorporate, without attaching those things to a concept that would become commonplace less than 10 years after the film was made. It's not Birth of a Nation, but Mr. Mom is a celluloid reminder of a time that no longer exists, a curiosity to show future generations of how things were, a long, long time ago.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Mr. Mom comes to Shout Select Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer. To put it bluntly, this is not a great looking film. Overall, the look is dull and soft, lacking any kind of pop or vibrances that one associates with the high definition of the format. Detail here and there can be described as good, but with the soft aesthetic dominating, it's not going to wow anyone. Dirt and debris do pop up occasionally, but not to any great distraction.

    The original theatrical mono carries the English audio in a DTS-HD Master Audio track, and it's perfectly serviceable. A DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is also available, and it opens up the soundfield a bit, but doesn't make a whole lot of use of any discrete options. It's a fairly flat sounding track, but lacks any flaws such as distortion or hiss. English Subtitles are available for this feature.

    Whatever It Takes: Looking Back At Mr. Mom (36:00, HD) could have been a much more welcome featurette, but the lack of inclusion of any of the major players make it a bit of a letdown. It still had a chance to recover by getting the right people in, and the supplement does well when Producer Lauren Shuler Donner shows up to talk about bringing John Hughes on board, and anecdotes that she shares from making the film, and it's nice to see Ann Jillian and Miriam Flynn; but this featurette suffers greatly when they give the camera time over to the sons in the film, Frederick Koehler and Taliesin Jaffe. It's nice that these two are around to talk about their experiences, but really, some of the stories that they tell border on ridiculous, considering that the recollections are coming from the minds of two small children. One of them discussing how unprofessional they felt to have their lines fed to them...really, at 6 years old, you were horrified at your lack of professionalism?...is an experience in eye-rolling, and this 36-minute piece would have been much better if shortened by 20 or so minutes.

    A theatrical Trailer is also included.

    The Final Word:

    There is no doubt room for debate on whether or not Mr. Mom remains funny in a day and age when stay-at-home dads are no longer a rarity that inspires the dropping of the jaw. A film that I loved as a kid does not hold up well over 30 years later, outside of the bumbling of Keaton's character, and even that gets old, quickly. Shout's Blu-ray offers a less-than-impressive transfer and a supplement that doesn't quite cut it. Given the rather high retail price of this release, it's only going to appeal to die-hard fans of the film.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!






















    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Alison Jane's Avatar
      Alison Jane -
      ...but this featurette suffers greatly when they give the camera time over to the sons in the film, Frederick Koehler and Taliesin Jaffe. It's nice that these two are around to talk about their experiences, but really, some of the stories that they tell border on ridiculous, considering that the recollections are coming from the minds of two small children. One of them discussing how unprofessional they felt to have their lines fed to them...really, at 6 years old, you were horrified at your lack of professionalism?...is an experience in eye-rolling, and this 36-minute piece would have been much better if shortened by 20 or so minutes.
      Ha! Which kid? I went to school with Frederick Koehler while he was making this film. I still remember on my class pic I wrote everyone's names except "Freddie was absent," haha, because he'd been away filming this!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Oh, they're both annoying, but the edge goes to the other kid. I like that story, though! I liked Koehler in OZ