Review: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’

Although overly sappy in places and probably 20 minutes too long, this Robin Williams-in-drag vehicle [from the novel Alias Mrs Doubtfire by Anne Fine] provides the comic a slick surface for doing his shtick, within a story possessing broad family appeal. Director Chris Columbus shrewdly brings together many of the same selling points as in his Home Alone movies, mixing broad comedic strokes with heavy-handed messages about the magical power of family.

Although overly sappy in places and probably 20 minutes too long, this Robin Williams-in-drag vehicle [from the novel Alias Mrs Doubtfire by Anne Fine] provides the comic a slick surface for doing his shtick, within a story possessing broad family appeal. Director Chris Columbus shrewdly brings together many of the same selling points as in his Home Alone movies, mixing broad comedic strokes with heavy-handed messages about the magical power of family.

While the concept screams Tootsie, the tone is more Mr Mom. Williams plays a flaky, unemployed actor Daniel who botches his son’s birthday party and ends up getting tossed out by his wife (Sally Field). Limited to weekly visitation, Daniel and his brother (Harvey Fierstein), a gay makeup artist, hatch the plan of having him masquerade as a matronly nanny – the better to steal precious hours with his three adorable moppets.

The pic does reveal occasional inspiration in terms of sharp dialogue and in scenes of well-choreographed slapstick lunacy, among them an unexpected visit from a court-appointed supervisor and a crowning scene in which Daniel/Mrs Doubtfire fulfills two dinner engagements at the same time.

That said, Mrs Doubtfire’s warm-fuzzy aspects prove a bit much, from the raspy Sally Brown voice on the wide-eyed youngest daughter (Mara Wilson) to the ham-fisted and plentiful ‘You’re OK even if your parents aren’t together’ speeches. Greg Cannom warrants kudos for the amusing body makeup.

1993: Best Makeup

Mrs. Doubtfire

Production

20th Century-Fox/Blue Wolf. Director Chris Columbus; Producer Marsha Garces Williams, Robin Williams, Mark Radcliffe; Screenplay Randi Mayem Singer, Leslie Dixon; Camera Donald McAlpine; Editor Raja Gosnell; Music Howard Shore; Art Director Angelo Graham

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1993. Running time: 125 MIN.

With

Robin Williams Sally Field Pierce Brosnan Harvey Fierstein Polly Holliday Lisa Jakub
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