Fox // 1993 // 125 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // March 10th, 2008
She makes dinner. She does windows. She reads bedtime stories. She's a blessing...in disguise.
In 1982, Dustin Hoffman played an actor who dressed as a woman in Sydney Pollack's critically acclaimed comedy Tootsie. In 1993, Robin Williams followed in his footsteps and disguised as an old lady to spend more time with his kids. The 1990s were certainly the best years of Williams' compelling career, and in my opinion, Mrs. Doubtfire still remains one of his best films to date.
Based on the novel by Anne Fine, the movie introduces us to Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams), an eccentric actor who specializes in recording voices for cartoons. Daniel is a funny man and a great father to his three kids, but if there's one thing he's not exactly good at, it's leading a marriage. So after his wife Miranda (Sally Field) files for divorce and gets full custody of their children, Daniel is brokenhearted.
As clever as he is, however, Daniel devises a fabulous plan to spend more time with his children: he responds to an ad for a housekeeper his ex-wife put in the paper, and disguises as an elderly woman he ends up calling Mrs. Doubtfire.
Mrs. Doubtfire was one of the first films I saw in theaters as a kid, and today I'm still as delighted to watch it as I was back then. No matter how over-the-top the movie gets from time to time, it delivers first-class family entertainment for a highly enjoyable 125 minutes. Now, two hours seem quite long for a film that primarily targets children, but Leslie Dixon and Randi Mayem Singer's clever screenwriting and Robin Williams' energetic acting keep the plot constantly moving at a fast pace. It's also one of those family flicks you don't mind watching over and over again. When you watch the movie as a kid you have a great time laughing at Williams' funny grimaces and his hilarious voices, and once you grow older, you start to appreciate the film's heartfelt themes and always discover new jokes or little wordplays you failed to catch before. This viewing experience alone proves the success of Mrs. Doubtfire, a timeless family comedy that puts everyone into a darn good mood.
Before we get to the delicious humor, let me briefly mention the main theme of the film. I have no doubt in my mind that Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the most sincere family films to deal with the consequences of a rough divorce. Heartwarming as it is, the story shows how hard it is for kids (of all ages) who struggle with their parents' unfriendly breakups. In this case, they are forced to face the loss of their beloved father, who's only allowed to see them once every week. This is exactly why Daniel's idea of dressing up as an old lady to be with his children is so unique. It perfectly depicts the bond between a dad and his kids that cannot be broken. Spectators old enough to understand that marriages indeed can fall apart will learn a lot from Mrs. Doubtfire. I also love the ending, primarily because it leaves off with a satisfying conclusion without falling victim to clichés.
On a different note, Mrs. Doubtfire is the epitome of a hysterically funny comedy. Most of the praise goes to Robin Williams, because he carries the entire film on his shoulders. The script certainly supplies all the actors with catchy lines and puts each one into the funniest situations, but without Williams' improvisations, the final result would've been half as funny. Director Chris Columbus gave Williams all the freedom he needed, and the outcome of that wise decision is indisputably hilarious. Contributing to the film's success is the fabulous job done by the makeup department, which worked wonders disguising Williams as an old lady.
Williams is supported by Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan, who obviously aren't as fun to watch as Mrs. Doubtfire but still add their fair share to the cast. The kiddos are quite adorable as well, with Mara Wilson stealing the show every time she steps in front of the camera.
I don't know whether 20th Century Fox remastered the film for this release, but the picture quality is top-notch. The colors are well-balanced and the image is clean throughout, giving the film a nice and polished look on a big widescreen TV. The audio transfer deserves some praise as well, as the music and dialogue are mixed perfectly.
This all-new edition of Mrs. Doubtfire on DVD is laden with more than two hours of special features. Besides the feature film, the first disc includes the "Cutting Room," a collection of 22 deleted, extended, and alternate scenes. I have to admit I usually find deleted scenes quite tedious and often unnecessary, but some of these are actually quite amusing. The bonus material on the second disc digs deeper into the production of the film, offering a wide variety of featurettes about the shooting, make-up tests, the movie's animated sequences, and the overall success of the film.
"From Man to Mrs: The Evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire" is an excellent 26-minute making-of with cast and crew interviews from 1993. Robin Williams, producer Mark Radcliffe, and Chris Columbus talk in length about the original idea behind the film, the comic and emotional elements in the script, and everything else related to the shooting really. From casting the leads to transforming Williams into an elder woman, this insightful piece focuses on a horde of aspects crucial to the production of the movie. It's a definite must for all hardcore Doutbfire fans desiring to learn more about the birth of the film. Interesting also is "Aging Gracefully -- A Look Back at Mrs. Doubtfire," a conversation with Williams and Columbus recorded exclusively for the new DVD release. Remembering how much fun they had making this film together, they both take a look back to 1993 and point out their favorite moments during the shooting.
Another absolute must is "Make Up Department," which offers four minutes on Williams' makeup, a gallery showcasing his daily transformation during principal photography, and a few makeup screen tests. Make-up artist Ve Neill discusses the numerous challenges of turning Williams into a woman, guiding her viewers through the lengthy process. One of the best extras is "The Improvisation of Mrs. Doubtfire," a 36-minute collection of Williams' numerous improvisations, including the final scenes that made the final cut. The only thing I missed on this set is Chris Columbus' great commentary from the previous edition. It's still a mystery to me why they chose not to include it. As far as I can remember, it was a great commentary with tons of extra information about the film as a whole.
Despite the lack of the filmmaker's commentary, this new edition of Mrs. Doubtfire is an absolute must for DVD fanatics and diehard Robin Williams fans. Honestly, who could get tired of watching Mrs. Doubtfire rocking the broom, kicking the soccer ball, or losing her teeth? Exactly!
Review content copyright © 2008 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Scenes
* "From Man to Mrs: The Evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire"
* "Aging Gracefully: A Look Back at Mrs. Doubtfire"
* "Makeup Application"
* "The Improvisation of Mrs. Doubtfire"
* "A Conversation With Legendary Animator Chuck Jones"
* "Final Animation Sequence"
* Original 1993 Featurette
* Photo Galleries
* Theatrical Trailers
* Publicity Stills