Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 5 min.

Release Date: November 24th, 1993 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Chris Columbus Actors: Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, Polly Holliday, Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence, Mara Wilson, Robert Prosky, Anne Haney

 


 

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oiceover artist Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is in a recording session for a cartoon of Pudgy the Parrot when he begins improvising a sequence with the family-friendly bird smoking a cigar. Objecting to the objectionable material leads to his walking out on the job. Seemingly immune to the loss of an income, he joyously gathers his three children from school – Lydia (Lisa Jakub), Chris (Matthew Lawrence), and 5-year-old Natalie (Mara Wilson) – and takes them home to a surprise birthday party for Chris. Going all out, he hires a petting zoo (with a pony wandering around inside the house), decorates with balloons, blasts music, and invites kids of all ages (some who even hang from the chandelier). When the neighbor calls the police over the public disturbance, Daniel’s wife Miranda (Sally Field), a partner at a graphic design company, comes home to a disaster.

Finally having had enough of Daniel’s overblown, childish antics, Miranda insists upon a divorce, forcing Daniel to move in with his friend Frank (Harvey Fierstein). In court, Miranda gains sole custody of the kids due to Daniel’s lack of a job and suitable residence; he’s only allowed visits on Saturdays. Landing a menial packing and shipping job at KTVU Television Studios gives him the means to rent a small apartment and also a bit of free time. When he discovers that Miranda is seeking a housekeeper to help with the kids (and to do some light cooking), he sabotages her ad and applies himself – as Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, an elderly Englishwoman, done up with a full latex mask, wig, fat suit, accent, and matching attire. The scenario becomes more complicated when Miranda gains a new client, Stuart Dunmeyer (Pierce Brosnan) – an attractive, wealthy entrepreneur who has his sights set on settling down.

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is an uncommonly well-balanced comedy. The dialogue is sensationally creative, with Williams spouting wisecracks as if every conversation is improvised; the situational comedy is incredibly cleverly designed, orchestrating unforgettable moments during which Hillard must transition speedily and hectically from his normal look to his alter ego, or interact jealously with Miranda’s suitor, or fend off amorous men; and the slapstick generates iconic visuals, with a pie in the face, Doubtfire’s breasts catching fire, and his rubber face getting run over by a truck. And yet, the script is still sensibly self-aware of the ludicrousness of the plot, taking care to attempt explanations for the lengths undertaken by Daniel’s desperation.

And like all truly outstanding comedies, “Mrs. Doubtfire” transcends the genre classification by tackling strikingly poignant themes and concepts, including familial issues and commentary, marital complications and romance, psychological implications due to unorthodox behaviors, parental concerns, and children’s separation anxieties, like a “Kramer vs. Kramer” topped with oodles of humorous touches (or like a sillier take on “Tootsie,” which blended genres and moods at a rate faster than the titular character could cross-dress). As if a somewhat grotesque take on Mary Poppins, this picture has an attitude and style all its own. Smartly, the laughs cater to both younger audiences and older ones, with subtle, off-color quips craftily sneaked into the conversations. The finale, building up on the previously explored ordeals of maintaining dual personhoods (here, at the same time in the same restaurant), is particularly uproarious in an expectedly catastrophic way (as is fairly typical with such outrageous storylines). In the end, though far from realistic (but more so than viewers might anticipate), the cinematic magic and amusement of “Mrs. Doubtfire” is undeniable.

– Mike Massie

  • 10/10