Mr. Mom (1983)

(On Cable TV, October 2012) As Mr. Mom nearly celebrates its thirtieth anniversary, it’s best to consider it as a film of its time, when it was easier to get laughs from the inversion of stereotypical gender roles.  A father staying home to take care of the kids while his wife works a professional job?  Hi-la-rious, with a large helping of male anxiety as side-dish.  Social conventions have evolved a bit since then, thankfully, but that doesn’t mean the film hasn’t aged well.  Sure, many of the pop-culture gags (or musical cues) are now nigh-incomprehensible to younger audiences, the pacing feels slow at times but John Hugues’ script exists in a nice reality worth visiting.  Compared to more recent parenthood comedies, Mr. Mom doesn’t indulge in grossness or offensiveness: it’s pleasant enough, and has enough material for stars Michael Keaton and Teri Garr to shine through.  There are a smattering of clever lines (“220, 221 –whatever it takes”) and a few good moments: The comedy hits its stride mid-way through as Keaton’s character reaches an accommodation with his parenthood duties, first badly and then more maturely.  The soap-opera-inspired sequence is hilarious, even though it’s a bit of a departure from the tone of the rest of the film.  While the film’s predictability and gentleness may not amount to nothing more than an entertaining time-waster, Mr. Mom still works at what it tries to do, and offers a window back to early-eighties attitudes.

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