Film review: Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), directed by Chris Columbus
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is a fun-loving voiceover artist. He’s wacky, irresponsible, overbearing … and a father of three. His wife Miranda (Sally Field) finally has enough and tells him to move out, she wants a divorce. The custody hearing doesn’t go well, and he hardly gets to see his kids at all.
Desperate to see his beloved children (Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence and Mara Wilson), and hearing how Miranda is trying to find a nanny, Daniel decides to take matters into his own hands. He puts on a body suit, a wig, a face mask, and transforms into the perfect nanny: a sweet, old lady called Mrs Euphegenia Doubtfire.
Can Daniel win the kids over, and can he show Miranda that he’s really not as irresponsible as she thought?
Also starring Pierce Brosnan as the slimy yet suave Stu Denmeyer, who doesn’t particularly like children, but likes the idea of getting into Miranda’s underwear too much to not give it a go.
This is a classic film, and I remember getting the book from the library back in the day. It’s sweet, and it’s cute – and as an adult I can sympathise with Miranda in ways I probably couldn’t back in the early-to-mid-1990s. Back then, it was a story about a horrible woman who tried to separate her kids from their awesome dad. Now it’s a story about a woman at her wits end, who has had enough of her husband’s many childish antics. Funny how your perspective changes with age, isn’t it?
There is no doubt this role was perfect for Robin Williams. Because I haven’t seen him in anything where he’s this over-the-top recently, a re-visit of his craziness made me think “oh gods, seriously? Miranda was right to throw him out” because goodness me, “annoying” isn’t a strong enough word.
It’s peculiar, because Robin Williams as a stand-up comedian has me in stitches, and as a serious(ish) actor, he’s absolutely amazing. One of my favourite films ever is Dead Poets Society, to give an example. But he can also be the complete clown who I just want to switch off because it’s just too much, and parts of this film is exactly that: too much.
That he dresses up as a little old lady isn’t particularly funny, it’s desperate but sort of heartwarming. And it works, I guess. Well, to be fair, it’s a kids’ film and as such it’s great. It tackles a heavy subject (divorce), but does it in a way that doesn’t seem too intimidating.
Sally Field, wow, I just really like her. She shows up in a film and I smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Maybe it’s because I really fell for her when she played Nora in Brothers & Sisters, and can’t differentiate between Nora and every other character she’s ever played. Or maybe she just tends to play really sympathetic characters, I don’t know. I just think she’s fabulous.
Oh, and there’s Pierce Brosnan in swimming trunks. Always a plus.
Mrs. Doubtfire is mostly harmless. It’s sweet, funny and heartwarming, and makes you think the world might not be such a horrible place after all. Proper escapism, if not the sort of film that warrants top marks in every category.
3.5 out of 5 donkeys.