When you think of John Hughes odds are your mind turns to films like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Weird Science OR if you listen to his IMDb page you think of Home Alone, Home Alone 2, and National Lampoon’s Vacation. What you probably don’t think of is a little-known film that took place in the eighties entitled Mr. Mom. Even I had forgotten that John Hughes had written this one. This is a film I grew up watching over and over even though my age group does not fit into the timing all that well it was something that was on television enough and that my Dad would turn on any chance he could get. He could not get enough of it and for a long time I attributed it to his love of Michael Keaton, which has undoubtedly rubbed off on me, but now that I am looking at all the pieces I think he was just a fan of John Hughes’s body of work up to that point. In fact, if you look at his body of work it has such a wide range that he may, be one of the best screenwriters of my lifetime if not the most diverse.
Our film follows Jack Butler (Michael Keaton), an auto engineer who has just lost his job. He and his wife face the fact that she may have to go and rejoin the workforce to help get them by. As she re-enters the advertising workforce one fact becomes clear: he will have to stay home and take care of the children and the household. A job that his wife Caroline (Teri Garr) seemed to have made look easy, he finds that he is in over his head and the only choice is to embrace it and take control.
There is a lot to cover here. This was the first time Keaton had to carry an entire film on his shoulders – at this point in time he was fresh off his role in Night Shift and had little film experience to this point. He handles it, of course, masterfully, with the support of a talented child cast and, of course, Teri Garr, Martin Mull, Jeffrey Tambor, and Christopher Lloyd all with minor roles to play in the story. Only Keaton could pull off Jack’s transformation into what I have been calling “Broken Man Jack Butler” (which I am convinced, as culturally insignificant as this film may be would make an excellent POP! Figure). The role carries with it, beneath the physical comedy and obvious jokes, some bigger themes of inadequacy that came with unemployment that a lot of working class men of the time were facing. This, of course, comes with the obvious statement of gender roles and how we as a society undervalue the roles of women in the household (circa 1983 not that it’s significantly better now) this is seen through the eyes of Jack and is only alluded to and never outspoken. I really want to say that looking back at this film I find its simplification of the gender Norms of the time and women’s unimportant role in the grand scheme of life offensive, but the film really heavily focuses on Jack as a character and his development into something more. As he learns so do we through his eyes as we root for him to succeed as a husband and father. That being said there are some obvious plot holes that I could point out, however, I really do not think it is necessary because the film follows its central structure well enough that by the end we just want the Butlers to find a way back together.
The Film 3.5/5
As I sat down to enjoy this film I was actually quite shocked to see how clear and vivid it was. I distinctly remember a quite grainy picture watching this way back when and this level of a crisp picture is not something I ever imagined or expected. Now that I have seen it this way I can say that I enjoy it even better. Some nuances in filming translate much better with the clearer picture. In the way of style, or camera tricks we are left without, the story carries the overall presentation and if one or two elements would have been missing here it would not have worked. I can say that Shout Factory has done a wonderful thing by taking great care in restoring a film that was once given away in Pizza Hut boxes (it was in 2003, don’t tell my wife but I actually still have the DVD version of this somewhere from that promotion but I really wanted the Shout Select version).
Picture Quality 5/5
If there is one thing that is usually most important in a John Hughes film, it is the score, something to bridge the overarching story and widely heartfelt tones spread throughout. Lee Holdridge does well to capture the heart of the film with a score that adds some much-needed charm to a film that at the core is about outdated gender role normative. I found that it was lightly spread throughout in a way that was endearing and I find myself too identifying with Jack and wanting him to succeed. This is ever important for a film to age well too, by having a score that separates and identifies itself so well with the story has become more and more rare. I also found the audio upgrade to be wonderful and I held steady at a reasonable volume for the duration of the film with no remote in sight.
Audio Quality 5/5
This is where Shout Select wins big for me. This is the exact kind of packaging I would love to see for most of my releases. The artwork is simple and effective and suits the film appropriately. It offers a unique color hue to separate it on the shelf and it is a numbered release amongst the Shout Select Series (number 28, little does my wife know I now have plans to get 1-27). Under the slipcover, we have a fairly standard Amaray case that suits the slipcover well and is nearly identical, however, when you open in we see that indeed Shout has offered us an alternate/reversible cover for the inside case. On the inside, we have a list on the left of all the Shout Select film and their number ( see they made it really easy for me). The disc itself keeps true to the red hue and theme seen throughout the packaging. My only qualm is one I have preached about time and time again they cut out a section of the slipcover for the barcode, I simply don’t understand this line of thinking however if it somehow saved costs enough for them to be able to afford to give me such a great release I can not be too mad overall.
The Packaging 4.5/5
We do actually end up with some extras being included with this release. Which I would have been content even without it. However, it is always nice to see some extra insight to be included. In the included Featurette we don’t get Keaton or Garr to weigh in at all but we get some of the cast and crew to comment on what filming was like and how the concept for the film came about. The included Special Features are as follows:
- A Look Back at Mr. Mom With Producer Lauren Schuler Donner and Co-Stars Ann Jillian, Frederick Koehler, and Taliesin Jaffe
- Original Theatrical Trailer
Special Features 2/5
There is just something about the way John Hughes writes that is easy to identify with. He tends to take from his own experiences and break them down to the most basics of the human characteristic traits so that we can identify with in part to the character we are watching. Whether it is a group of teens trying to figure out who they are (The Breakfast Club), or a recently unemployed engineer who has to take over the role as Mom and learn a whole new set of skills(Mr. Mom) he finds a way for you to put yourself there with them. This is definitely a film at base value seems like something that wouldn’t work today, but the key is Keaton and the writing of Hughes it, for me, is timeless and all these years later I found it to be just as enjoyable. In fact, as an adult, I was able to relate quite a bit more to some of the content. You can buy this release HERE.
Overall 4/5- A Great Addition to any collection