The B-Movie Isle: Shout Factory’s Mr. Mom (Shout Select)
The B-Movie Isle/Adam takes a look one of the 80’s Cable stalwarts in Michael Keaton’s comedy classic Mr. Mom. The film is being released in a beautiful new Blu-Ray edition by Shout Factory’s Shout Select line. Is the John Hughes scripted classic still funny thirty years later? Is Michael Keaton still the man? Did Keaton’s character inadvertently create hipster-ism? How did they get all those Star Wars toys in a Universal film? Read on to find out…
In the 80’s and 90’s Cable TV was a strange and wonderful thing. For the first time ever you had the ability to see films 24/7/365, films you never heard of, your favorite films, films you only read about. In the era of instant gratification this may be lost on someone who’s choosing power is only limited by their purchasing power. That era brought rise to films gaining reputations, becoming audience classics and cult classics faster than ever before. Instead of decades or years it now only took years or months. Yes, I now the cycle has now gone to literal negative days and months before release, thank you Film Twitter! A perfect example of this was Mr. Mom.
The film was a decent hit when released in 1983 but it was its mainstay status on Cable outlets like HBO, Cinemax, USA and TNT that solidified its reputation from just a decent hit to comedic classic. Mr. Mom tells the story of Jack Bulter (Michael Keaton) who’s fired from his job and is “forced” to take upon the role of Stay-At-Home Dad as his wife Caroline (Teri Garr). The Stay-at-Home Dad role teaches Jack to be a better man, husband and father but not before he loses his mind a little bit. The film’s goofier aspects made this film more of a kid’s film, though screenwriter John Hughes seems to be aiming more towards adults with the film.
Yes, there are some troubling things going on in this film but remember… in the 1980’s a Stay-At-Home Dad was a “novel concept”. The film does fairly well with the way that Jack takes on this role as clueless dummy about house work. Though one does ask, Jack’s never done laundry for himself, really? Part of the charm of the film is seeing how Hughes script takes both sides and shows us this husband and wife team as they take on their respective challenges. Where Jack has demon possessed vacuums and lustful single mothers, Caroline must contend with Reagan-era Douche Bag supreme Ron Richardson (played by Martin Mull). Hughes understands the dynamic here at play and services both stories well.
Garr and Keaton don’t have much chemistry but they kill in their respective roles. This revisit really revealed how much this is a definitely a two-fer with both actors carrying equal weight. Many will remember the iconic moments like the Soap Opera nightmare, the beard and Pendleton (in ’83 this may make Keaton the first proto-hipster to appear in cinema), the training montage. What people will appreciate now is just how strong Hughes writes Garr’s Caroline. During the entirety of the film you side with her rational sane Caroline, realizing just how much growing up Keaton’s Jack needs to do within the frame work. Seeing how Caroline deals with Richardson during a “business” trip is a bit of a grandstand moment for Garr. Garr is the secret weapon here, though Keaton may get the big laughs. Special mention to the support players in early roles like Jeffery Tambor, Christopher Lloyd, Ann Jillian and the aforementioned Mull who do great albeit short work.
Director Stan Dragoti does an acceptable job here shooting Hughes’ script but do not expect much in the way of style form this 80’s era comedies. Most, including Mr. Mom, are shot like sitcoms, very static or shot for the joke/gag. It is surprising as Dragoti would go onto direct the very stylish comedy The Man with One Red Shoe two years later (which one hopes Shout Factory will eventually release as it’s a great cult comedy). Ultimately, Mr. Mom works not because of the film’s style but because of its script and the solid performances by Keaton and Garr.
The new transfer commissioned by Shout Factory is a beautiful one. This reviewer has never seen the film look as good as it does here. The film’s source is not as crisp as say newer elements that some films of that era would have for a transfer. Again this is the problem with the 35mm source. The film has a very standard 80’s comedy look. It’s nothing beautiful. The Transfer actually brings out the best it can in the source material which again an 80’s comedy. The film looks sharper and more well defined contrast and black levels than permutations, even in Blu-Ray.
- Brand-New Documentary: “A Look Back At Mr. Mom” featuring brand-new interviews with: Producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Ann Jillian, Miriam Flynn, Frederick Koehler, Taliesin Jaffe
- Original Theatrical Trailer
The primary extra is the newly made Making-Of Documentary. The 36 minute documentary is a wealth of information on the development, production and release of the film. Sadly, with Hughes passing he is one of the primary creative forces of the film is missed but so much of the first part of the documentary is discussing his develop of the film. Also not present is Keaton and Garr. Minus those items the making-of is a great resource giving you everything you could possibly need to know about this production and film.
The Bottom Shelf
Shout Factory has been on a roll as of late with Comedies (see The Pink Panther Collection, Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf Too, Where the Buffalo Roam) and now Cable mainstay Mr. Mom. The film gets a shiny new transfer and a great Making-Of Documentary. This Shout Select release is going to be a no-brainer for any fan of this and 80’s comedies in general. Recommended!