Mixed lineage kinases (MLKs) function as Jun-N-terminal kinase (JNK) kinase kinases to transduce extracellular signals during development and homeostasis in adults. slipper (slpr), which encodes the Drosophila homolog of mammalian MLKs, has previously been implicated in activation of the JNK pathway during embryonic dorsal epidermal closure. To further define the specific functions of SLPR, we analyzed the phenotypic consequences of slpr loss and gain of function throughout development, using a semiviable maternal-effect allele and wild-type or dominant-negative transgenes. From these analyses we confirm that failure of dorsal closure is the null phenotype in slpr germline clones. In addition, there is a functional maternal contribution, which can suffice for embryogenesis in the zygotic null mutant, but rarely suffices for pupal metamorphosis, revealing later functions for slpr as the maternal contribution is depleted. Zygotic null mutants that eclose as adults display an array of morphological defects, many of which are shared by hep mutant animals, deficient in the JNK kinase (JNKK/MKK7) substrate for SLPR, suggesting that the defects observed in slpr mutants primarily reflect loss of hep-dependent JNK activation. Consistent with this, the maternal slpr contribution is sensitive to the dosage of positive and negative JNK pathway regulators, which attenuate or potentiate SLPR-dependent signaling in development. Although SLPR and TAK1, another JNKKK family member, are differentially used in dorsal closure and TNF/Eiger-stimulated apoptosis, respectively, a Tak1 mutant shows dominant genetic interactions with slpr, suggesting potential redundant or combinatorial functions. Finally, we demonstrate that SLPR overexpression can induce ectopic JNK signaling and that the SLPR protein is enriched at the epithelial cell cortex.