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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mr. Mom is a 1983 movie in which a laid-off engineer from the auto industry struggles with his role as a househusband while his wife becomes the breadwinner. Though this comedy is rated PG and features kids, it's fairly racy. A divorcee targets a married man and flashes her cleavage, a boss hits on his married employee, and Jack and his housewife friends see a male stripper show. There's plenty of smoking and drinking. There's some mild profanity ("s--t," "son of a bitch," "ass," "hell," "dammit.") The attitudes and premise are dated; modern kids might wonder why being a stay-at-home dad is such a big deal. Some sexism: A woman gives a successful advertising pitch and the CEO of the company says to her male boss, "Where have you been hiding this little girl?"
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What's the story?
When he's laid off from his job as an automotive engineer, Jack (Michael Keaton) becomes MR. MOM, a stay-at-home dad in charge of three kids and the household, while his wife Caroline (Teri Garr), a former ad exec, dusts off her shoulder-padded suits to prove herself worthy in the boardroom. Jack and his mommy friends play poker with coupons; Caroline applies domestic know-how to land a tuna campaign; Jack conquers a wayward vacuum cleaner; and Caroline fends off her randy boss. In the end, Jack realizes his wife does more than he can ever imagine while he is away, and Caroline realizes she can hold her own in the corporate world.
Is it any good?
Decades after it was first released in theaters, this movie remains as relevant as ever; stay-at-home dads may not be that rare anymore, but what keeps this comedy fresh is its humor. Simply put, it's hilarious. In the hands of lesser thespians, Jack and Caroline would have merely become caricatures. But in Keaton and Garr, they are layered and conflicted and always funny.
The results of the switch aren't all that surprising -- it's the journey to Jack and Caroline's epiphanies that makes Mr. Mom worthwhile. In the end, the movie takes a position: Men and women are equal, at home and at work. It's not a new life lesson, but how fun it is to be reminded.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender roles in Mr. Mom. How was it hard for the homemaker to become the breadwinner and vice-versa? The idea of a househusband was a novelty in the '80s -- has that changed? Caroline's boss blatantly hits on her. Could an employer behave this way today? What more recent movies have you seen that show men in domestic roles?
Could this movie be remade and placed in a contemporary setting? Why or why not? What would be different? What would be the same?
Besides attitudes toward gender roles, what are some other ways in which this movie is firmly placed in the realities of the early 1980s?
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