1983 is the year I graduated from Defiance Senior High School, in Defiance, OH. My husband did too, and yes, we were highschool sweethearts(awww!) Our 30th Class Reunion was held last weekend and unfortunately we couldn’t attend. I have enjoyed looking at all the photos posted on facebook by classmates, and as I’ve been looking back on my memories of 1983, I started to wonder what were the Top 10 movies for that year? With the help of the internet I found the Top 10 box office hits of 1983: 1. Star Wars-Return of the Jedi 2. Terms of Endearment 3. Flashdance 4. Trading Places 5. War Games 6. Octopusssy 7. Sudden Impact 8. Staying Alive 9. Mr. Mom and 10. Risky Business.http://www.imdb.com/list/nYQNBmxb434/ Most of these movies I’ve seen( but not Staying Alive or Sudden Impact) and my definition of a Classic Movie is usually any movie made prior to 1965 so for today, with a fond look back at my graduation year of 1983, I decided to pick one of these films as My Classic Pick and Mr. Mom it is. Mr. Mom is a very funny, comedy-drama about an engineer with the Ford Motor Company, who lives in a lovely suburb of Detroit with his wife and 3 kids. One sunshiny day, the engineer and 2 of his co-workers are told they are being let go from their jobs. With this abrupt change in his life plans, the engineer decides he can be a stay at home dad while his wife goes out with her dusted off college degree and lands a job working for an advertising firm. It sounds like a plot that has been explored before, even in a folk tale http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Is-Story-Wanted-Housework/dp/0816642435. But there are many factors with the making of Mr. Mom that lifts it above a plot that’s been explored before: First, it was written by John Hughes, before he became well-known for his own movies that he created about teens and their families(16 Candles, Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, to name a few), the talented cast of Michael Keaton, Teri Garr, Martin Mull, Jeffrey Tambor, Ann Jillian, Christopher Lloyd, all elevate this movie to Classic status. Directed by Stan Dragoti, produced by Aaron Spelling, and released by 20th Century Fox, the movie did excellently at the box office, earning $60,000,000.
Michael Keaton is Jack Butler, hard-working engineer, loving husband to Caroline(Teri Garr), and a great dad to his 3 kids, Alex, Kenny, and Megan(played by Fred Koehler, Taliesin Jaffe, and twins Courtney and Brittany White.) Jack is devastated and in shock when his boss, Jinx Latham(Jeffrey Tambor) calls him to his office to inform Jack that he is being let go from the Ford Motor Company. Jack’s two work pals, Larry(Christopher Lloyd) and Stan(Tom Leopold) also get the axe at the same meeting. Jack heads home and gives Caroline the news. She is sad for her husband but tells him that she can dust off her college degree and go out there and get a job to support the family. Jack agrees to this, saying he’ll be a stay at home husband and care for the house and kids until he finds another engineering job.
At first, Jack is enthused about caring for the house and the kids. Funny scenes ensue as he discovers he doesn’t do things like Mommy does, drives the wrong way into the elementary school parking lot when dropping Alex off for school-“You’re doing it wrong!” has become a catchphrase around our house, trying to mimic the grating voice of the PTA mom in charge of the parking lot entrance and exit at the school! Another hilarious scene is poor Jack, trying to grocery shop with the other 2 children in tow, knocking over displays, causing a long line at the deli of frustrated housewives to grow behind him as he is so indecisive at making his purchase choices, and his embarrassment at having to buy feminine products for his wife and putting them on the conveyor belt for the cashier to enter their price into her register only to discover that they need a price check, which the cashier loudly proclaims on her microphone for all the store to hear.
After these funny scenes of Jack settling into life as a househusband, he becomes depressed. He stops shaving and grows a beard and he discovers soap operas, specifically The Young and The Restless. The scenes where he is caught up in the soap opera’s plot and yells at Victor to watch out for Nikki always make me laugh because in 1983, I also watched that same soap opera, and it had a crazy story line going on about Victor and Nikki! Jack also begins to befriend the other ladies in the neighborhood, all stay at home moms, and he teaches them to play coupon poker. One of the moms, Joan(Ann Jillian) is attracted to Jack and she drops a lot of hints that she’d like them to have an affair! Meanwhile, Caroline is wowing her new co-workers at the advertsing agency where she now works. Only she came up with an ad campaign for a tuna company that the president of the company liked. Caroline’s new boss Ron Richardson(Martin Mull) is attracted to Caroline and we know that he is going to try and steal her away from her husband. There is a picnic with Olympic style games held at Richardson’s home for all of his employees and their families and despite being younger and in better athletic shape than Richardson, Jack has to curtail his abilities at the Olympic games and let Carolyn’s boss win the events. Jack can also see that Richardson is interested in his wife and this leads to some funny day dreams on Jack’s part, set to a Young and the Restless plot line of Joan trying to seduce Jack, Caroline walking in on them, Joan confronting Caroline about Jack, Caroline melodramitically arguing with Jack and pulling a gun on him, and Richardson popping in on the scene. There is also another hilarious moment when Jack learns that Richardson is coming to his house to pick up Caroline and chauffer her to work, so Jack quickly dons a “macho” outfit, grabs a chainsaw, and spouts all kind of manly activities he’ll be doing while Caroline is at work and for Richardson to overhear! The tuna company wants the new ad filmed in Los Angeles and Richardson informs Caroline that she must accompany him there to help supervise the commerical’s look. Caroline reluctantly goes with him, feeling down as it is Halloween and she won’t get to help take the kids to the houses for trick or treating. Jack feels down, too, as he is a bit worried about his wife going to LA with Richardson around.
I won’t give away the rest of the movie, but there is a huge misunderstanding coming due to major miscommunication, Jack has another meeting with his old boss, repair men and repair ladies all show up at the same time as major appliances are breaking down, and despite the foibles and miscommunications going on among the main characters in the movie, it all works out wonderfully in the end. Mr. Mom is availble at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Mr.+Mom, either to purchase or view on their instant rental method, it is on Netflix, and hilarious clips of the movie are up on Youtube. Not a black and white classic film, not a film made before 1965, but a classic comedy with heart and a very talented cast, go and see one of 1983’s Top Ten movies, Mr. Mom.