Picks and Pans Review: Mr. Mom

updated 09/26/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/26/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

If you laughed when Dustin Hoffman folded the egg-sopped bread to make French toast for his son in Kramer vs. Kramer, you'll love all 92 minutes of Mr. Mom. It's little more than an expansion of that dunce-dad image but with a Reaganomics-working-woman hook. Michael Keaton plays a high-level auto plant engineer laid off in Detroit; Teri Garr, the dutiful mom of their three suburban kids, lands a job as an ad exec assigned to a sinking tuna account. (Her boss, Martin Mull, obviously hires her because he's mulling over a hot after-hours campaign of his own.) The film, directed by Stan Dragoti—he of Love at First Bite, the 1979 cocaine bust in Frankfurt and, formerly, Cheryl Tiegs—exploits the reverse sexism of Tootsie (the notion that a man can make it only in drag). That's leavened, though, by Keaton's endless series of house-husband headaches. A partial list involves: diapers, a vacuum cleaner named "Jaws," a kitchen fire and exploding popcorn poppers. Garr, who mercifully does not whine as she did to excess in Tootsie, underplays her part nicely. But it's Keaton's kinetic energy, ever-undulating eyebrows and wise-guy humor that carry the whole potentially dismal project. Try to get beyond the obvious dumb implausibilities: Would Garr, in fact, clean up the junk-food debris from her first round-table meeting with ad executives "out of habit"? And if Keaton is really an engineer, would a front-loading washer really throw him that far? Writer John (National Lampoon's Vacation) Hughes has, however, loaded this film with some invention: Keaton's riotous game of food-coupon poker with The Girls ("I'll see your Tender Vittles..."); his addiction to daytime soaps; the micro-waving of socks to dry them; the ironing of his son's lukewarm grilled cheese. Focus on the moments—not the muddled sexual polemics—and Mr. Mom can relieve people of all sexes of the tedium of their daily routines, domestic, professional or otherwise. (PG)

From Our Partners