Classic comedy from the 1980s includes some of the most re-watchable films. There are the perennial favorites from the creative talents of the original Saturday Night Live cast, like Caddyshack, The Blues Brothes, Stripes, and Ghostbusters. Many of the best were written by John Hughes, with National Lampoon’s Vacation, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Planes, Trains & Automobiles among them. But while these movies can be found all the time on cable, one of Hughes’ best comedy classics inexplicably rarely surfaces. That film is Mr. Mom, the movie that solidified Michael Keaton as not only a comedic actor audiences loved, but a leading man who could hold his own as top name on the marquee. The physical comedy Keaton uses in his latest film Birdman has its roots in Keaton’s performance as Mr. Mom’s put-upon co-worker, husband and dad. In fact early on Keaton recognized his own talent at physical comedy, taking the stage surname Keaton because of Buster Keaton’s similar talents.
Keaton plays Jack Butler, recently laid-off from his Detroit auto plant job. When he can’t find work, wife Caroline, played by Teri Garr, decides to dust off her marketing degree and take a job working for Ron Richardson, played by Martin Mull. Jack is laid off with co-workers including one played by Christopher Lloyd, and his boss is played by Jeffrey Tambor. Ann Jillian plays a single neighbor out to land the homebound Jack, and Carolyn Seymour, who will be familiar to Star Trek fans for her humorous guest appearances, is one of the people who works for Ron (and despises Caroline). Until this year you could have said each of these actors was at the top of their game in Mr. Mom, although the newfound accolades for both Keaton and Tambor seem to qualify that assertion.
If you saw Mr. Mom in theaters upon its release in 1983, you may be surprised when re-watching the film 30 years later how many lines you remember. It’s not quotable to the extent of Caddyshack, but you may find you can quote lines along with the film. Pop culture references to contemporary movies were a signature of Hughes long before Joss Whedon would perfect them in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.