Judge Gordon Sullivan vows never to hire Robin Williams as a nanny.
"I don't work with the males, because I used to be one."
On reflection, Robin Williams has had one of the most interesting careers of any actor who emerged from the comedy scene. Not content with either comedy cameos or turns as the funny front guy, Williams' career has been filled with odd choices and interesting roles, both comedic and dramatic. It's hard to believe the same guy brought us John Keating from the Dead Poets Society, Parry from The Fisher King, and Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire from Mrs. Doubtfire—and all that in the span of four years. Mrs. Doubtfire has already received two DVD editions here in the States, both a decent first version plus the decked out "Behind the Seams" Edition released not long before this Blu-ray. Luckily, Fox chose to give Blu-rayers all the extras from the more packed "Behind the Seams" edition as well as a solid technical presentation.
Facts of the Case
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams, Jumanji) is an actor who specializes in voice work. His odd sense of humor is a hit with his three kids, but makes it hard for his wife (Sally Field, Forrest Gump) to deal with him. She files for divorce, limiting the time Daniel gets with his kids. With his prodigious acting talent, he doesn't have to take this situation lying down. Instead, he decides to sabotage his ex-wife's search for a nanny by applying his voice talents and pretending to be a crop of horrible candidates. His plan culminates in his decision to don drag clothing and appear before his ex-wife as Mrs. Euphengenia Doubtfire, an excellent candidate for the position of nanny (especially considering some of the other candidates he concocted). Of course it's not that easy, as Daniel must navigate the difficulties of his role as both father and nanny, while hoping no one will notice his eccentric behavior.
Drag is an old tradition, rearing its head in numerous cultures for a variety of reasons. In a culture like ours where the gender roles (man goes to work, woman makes the home) are still fairly strict, it's an endless source of amusement. From Some Like it Hot to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, drag has been a fertile source for comedy gold. In that light, Mrs. Doubtfire must have been an easy sell: take one of the best improv comics around (Robin Williams), make him a voice actor (which plays to his strengths), and then put him in a dress. I can imagine the executives with dollar signs in their eyes.
Ultimately, such enthusiasm is justified. The plot is solid and builds to a satisfying conclusion. More than that, the film at least attempts to deal with the difficulties inherent in parental separation. Robin Williams gives a performance that plays to his strengths as a comic, providing lots of zany antics and amusing one-liners. Yes it's a bit juvenile, but Robin Williams consistently reminds us of why it's important to hold onto some parts of our childhood. I didn't find myself laughing out loud much rewatching Mrs. Doubtfire but I was rarely unamused.
This Blu-ray disc of Mrs. Doubtfire looks pretty good, but not great. There's not quite as much detail as I would have expected. The disc isn't bad, it just didn't "pop" like I would have liked. On the audio side, however, things are a little better, with a nice, clear balance of dialogue and music.
Robin William's chief talent is for improv, and the special features give us loads of extra Robin. There is a half hour of deleted scenes, some of which extend the story nicely. We also get his makeup tests and a half-hour of improv that's fun to watch. Departing from the Williams-oriented material, we get a few featurettes on the evolution of the project as well as some thoughts from director Chris Columbus and Williams after the film was released. Fans of animation are sure to enjoy the interview footage with Chuck Jones, who handled the animation that we see in the beginning of the film. We also get test and final animation footage with voiceover by Williams. The disc rounds out with some promotional material, including trailers, teasers, and publicity stills.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film is not without its faults. Next to Robin Williams the rest of the cast seems rather bland (with the exception of Harvey Fierstein). That might be intentional, but it doesn't make the movie more fun to watch. It's also a rather long film, clocking in at over two hours. A little tightening here and there might have made it a stronger film. Also, like all family oriented movies, this one might tickle the fancy of the younger crowd more than the adults in the audience. Finally, this film deals with divorce in a pretty bald manner, so if you or your kids are sensitive about the subject, steer clear of Mrs. Doubtfire.
On a technical note, one would hope that the increased capacity of the Blu-ray disc would allow the extras from both previous releases to be combined, giving us all the new features of the "Behind the Seams" edition plus the commentary from the initial release. That was, however, not to be. It's not a huge loss, but still disappointing.
Mrs. Doubtfire cleans up nicely as a comedy. It's neither Robin Williams' best nor his worst work, but it works well as a family film. For those new to the film, I recommend a rental because the charms of the movie may wear thin pretty quickly. If you're set on purchasing the movie, this Blu-ray disc will satisfy in both the technical and supplemental arenas.
Mrs. Doubtfire is too proper a lady to be guilty of anything.
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