“Moms on Strike,” an original movie from ABC Family, doesn’t solve the world’s pressing issues but does present a clear case for the problems that modern families face at a time when parental roles are constantly shifting. Director James Keach obviously understands and relishes the material provided by writers Nancy Silvers and Gregory Pinkas. And with a healthy balance of whimsy and relevance, the trio creates an entertaining if not totally realistic all-inclusive family movie.
Faith Ford stars as Pam Harris, a working mother who wakes up one morning to her daily routine only to realize how overburdened she feels. Pam works 30 hours a week while her husband, Alan (Tim Matheson), who is hoping to make partner at his law firm, works even more. Still, it is Pam who shoulders the majority of family responsibilities, acting as chauffeur, cook, maid, typist and even dog-walker to her three kids. Parenting has always been an undervalued job, but Pam is feeling particularly underappreciated.
Inspired by the janitors on strike at the school and spurned when everyone forgets her birthday, Pam decides to go on strike until her family learns to appreciate all that she does. It isn’t long before her picketing attracts attention, and soon Pam’s strike becomes a national movement that draws attention to parenting and family issues.
Over the years, films such as “Mr. Mom” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” have addressed the notion of swapping gender roles, and even now society is still struggling to break free of the notion of women as caretakers and men as breadwinners. “Moms on Strike” reiterates some of these same ideas but scores points for picking up on the deeper issue of how to reconcile work and family life — for both mom and dad.
Pam’s strike ends only when she lets go her notions of the “super mom” and Alan realizes how much of his kids’ lives he’s missing when he finally makes time for them. Of course, this is all presented within a pristine suburban setting where the biggest challenges seem to revolve around finding clean clothes. But there are enough messages in the movie that to add more would just be grandstanding.
Ford is a welcome familiar face, and she conveys Pam’s plight without resentment. One half expects the spunky Corky Sherwood to show up and just yell her way out of the situation, but Ford’s Pam is a model of restraint and communication.
Matheson has the harder job of performing the overdone fish-out- of-water/dad-in-the-kitchen scenario. While his take on it isn’t the most innovative, he makes the transformation from distracted to dedicated fresh and believable.
Florence Henderson appears briefly as Pam’s mother and hams it up a bit as the June Cleaver type. But just when her performance seems over the top, Henderson gives it relevance thanks to a poignant heart-to-heart scene with Ford.
As a director, Keach tends to equate levity with trick camera work, but he keeps things in good taste and good-natured. Other technical credits are very respectable, with nice accompanying music by Philip Marshal.