"Mrs. Doubtfire", which has been shown a seemingly infinite amount of times (it was a popular Thanksgiving and Christmas network TV movie for a while there) over the years, also doesn't seem as fresh to me now as it once did. Both movies are entertaining (and geez, quite different), but years later I've realized that neither of these movies, while so big in their time, quite reach the level of being "timeless".
As many are already surely familiar, the story focuses on voiceover artist Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams), a father who's heartbroken to find that his wife, Miranda (Sally Field) wants a divorce after she comes home to find that he's thrown a party that has wrecked the house. Apparently because he's always the one to have fun and she's always the villain who enforces the rules, she has finally had enough. Watching the movie again after all these years, one wonders what these two characters ever saw in each other, as they seem as if they're polar opposites and it's difficult to believe that was ever not the case.
Wanting to still be close to his beloved kids, he goes to his brother Frank (Harvey Fierstein), who manages to come up with a disguise. As he's aware that Miranda is in the midst of looking for a housekeeper, Daniel shows up as old Scottish widow Mrs. Doubtfire. Meanwhile, Miranda has fallen for an old friend from school (Pierce Brosnan), and Daniel tries to plan various ways to shoo the new guy away from behind his disguise.
While it's easy to pick up on some issues looking at the movie after a few years (no idea how the Field and Williams characters ever got along - she's a real ice queen in the film), but at least I do still feel the movie does walk the line between comedy and drama reasonably well. The movie treats the subject of divorce with respect and care and the comedy - while a little corny and slapsticky (although Williams does a nice job giving a slight edge to some of his lines as Doubtfire) - works well enough, although even at its best it is a little sitcom-ish.
Williams has taken a lot of critical hits over the past several years, but to watch "Mrs. Doubtfire" is to be reminded of when Williams seemed a little more natural and not as forced or rehearsed. As I've said in other reviews, Williams is best when he's simply unleashed to riff on whatever comes in front of his path. The best material Robin Williams has ever had to perform seems to just come naturally in the moment, and it's just brilliant. One can still see this on the actor's appearances on the Today Show, where the actor's unpredictable improv remains screamingly funny. The kids - Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence and Mara Wilson - offer enjoyable supporting efforts.
I still feel "Mrs. Doubtfire" doesn't hold up quite as well years after its original release, but there are certainly elements to appreciate, such as the spirited performance from Williams and the film's ability to blend comedy and drama moderately well.
VIDEO: "Mrs. Doubtfire" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 2.35:1 (1080p/AVC) on Blu-Ray. The presentation does look better than the recent "Behind-the-Seams" DVD edition, but there are still a few problems to contend with, such as the occasional specks and marks on the print used. Nobody's going to find the sharpness and detail present on this transfer to be dazzling, but the film does appear perked up here, with a level of definition that does beat the prior DVD editions. No edge enhancement, noise or pixelation are seen. Light-to-mild grain is spotted in some scenes. Colors look bright and sunny again here, with nice saturation and no smearing or other faults. I didn't find this presentation anything to get too excited about, but the Blu-Ray certainly is the best the film has looked on home video.
SOUND: The film is presented with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio option on this Blu-Ray edition. The film's sound design is - as one might expect from the material - pretty much the bare basics, as while the music does get some minor reinforcement from the side speakers, the surrounds are otherwise absent from the proceedings. Audio quality is passable, as dialogue sounded clean and well-recorded, as did music and effects.
EXTRAS: Essentially, the "Behind-the-Seams" DVD edition extras have been carried over here.
Unfortunately, the commentary from director Chris Columbus hasn't been carried over here. However, there's quite a few other extras to go through, some new and some carried over from the prior release.
Here's an instance where a disc provides some deleted scenes that actually could have found their way into the movie. I think the movie is a little long as is, but there are scenes here that are absolutely hilarious, as Williams(as Mrs. Doubtfire) and the family's neighbor have a few hilarious confrontations while discussing what she should do about her garden. There's also a few additional tries at nanny "personalities" before Williams's character comes up with Mrs. Doubtfire. These are some fairly sizable scenes and they're quite fun to see. There's a lot of comedy here and it's unfortunate that it had to be cut from the film. Some of the scenes here seem to be a little more "mean spirited" humor than the rest of the film, and that's maybe why they were cut. Overall, we get 19 deleted/extended scenes and 4 alternate scenes.
"Interview with Chuck Jones" is a fairly short interview with the legendary animator that talks about the original animated sequence that starts off the film. We also get the entire final animation sequence, pencil tests and alternate backgrounds.
"Aging Gracefully" is a 14-minute documentary that has Columbus and Williams chatting about the movie years later. While the piece starts out a little fluffy, they do get to some good tidbits, such as a discussion of how Williams was allowed to improv, and the editing process that created multiple versions of the picture - including some where the raw improv jokes would have gotten the picture a different rating. The two also discuss the fact that they've been approached for a sequel, and just how they'd actually go about that if it came to be.
Speaking of improv, "The Improvisation of Mrs. Doubtfire" is a section that allows viewers to check out different improv takes of Williams for seven scenes. There's some pretty amusing takes throughout this section, and it's worth watching. Some of these should have been used in the final scene.
"Make-up Test" is a really interesting series of short segments that take sort of a "behind-the-scenes" look at not only how the actual character was built, but how the make-up and clothes were chosen. We get test segments with Williams alone, as well tests of Mrs. Doubtfire working with the other actors.
"Make-up Application" is a second featurette on the make-up, again with Williams talking about the process of building the character, then we actually see the process of people putting make-up and all of the latex and other material on Williams. There's a very interesting commentary by the make-up artist during this sequence that takes us through what is being applied and why and also giving us information about how long it takes to put this all together.
"From Man to Mrs.: The Evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire" is a 5-part (short parts, unfortunately) documentary pieced together largely from archive footage. The featurette is fairly standard promotional fare, although there are some good tidbits offered up about the make-up work, script development and casting, among other topics. Fans will want to take a look at this featurette once, but I don't think it'll offer much replay value.
"Mrs. Featherbottom" is a hidden easter egg, which offers a parody of "Doubtfire" from an "Arrested Development" episode. We also get the original 1993 EPK featurette, 3 trailers, a photo gallery, make-up still gallery, "Meet Mrs. Doubtfire" featurette, 2 TV spots, poster gallery (um, 2 posters - how about some international posters?) and publicity photo gallery.
Final Thoughts: I still feel "Mrs. Doubtfire" doesn't hold up quite as well years after its original release, but there are certainly elements to appreciate, such as the spirited performance from Williams and the film's ability to blend comedy and drama reasonably well. The Blu-Ray edition does offer improved image quality and lightly improved audio quality, as well as the same supplements. Recommended.
The Film B