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Chris Columbus
Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, Polly Holliday, Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence, Mara Wilson
Writing Credits:
Anne Fine (novel, "Alias Madame Doubtfire"), Randi Mayem Singer, Leslie Dixon

She will rock your world.

Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is no ordinary father, so when he learns his ex-wife (Sally Field) needs a housekeeper, he applies for the job. With the perfect wig, a little makeup and a dress for all occasions, he becomes Mrs. Doubtfire, a devoted British nanny who is hired on the spot. Free to be the "woman" he never knew he could be, the disguised Daniel creates a whole new life with his entire family.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$20.468 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$219.000 million.

Rated PG-13

Widescreen 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital 5.0
English Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 10/5/1999

• Audio Commentary with Director Chris Columbus
• Deleted Scenes
• Cast Interviews
• “Comments from Chuck Jones”
• Original Pencil Test of Animation Sequence
• Final Animation Sequence
• Make-up Test
• Make-up Application with Commentary
• Trailers and TV Spots


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 6, 2008)

If your parents stick you with a funny name, you'd better develop a sense of humor quickly or you're dead meat. Such was the lesson likely learned by young Albert Einstein - who later changed his last name to "Brooks" - and also by one Chris Columbus. Actually, other than their famous names and their work in comedy films, that's about all those two have in common. Brooks has received massive acclaim from critics and peers for his humor but not much recognition at the box office, whereas Columbus's career has taken the exact opposite path: most critics slam his films but many of them have fared quite nicely with moviegoers.

It's unlikely he'll ever create a comedy that does better than 1990's top hit Home Alone, as that stinker somehow managed to rake in a whopping $285 million. However, 1993's Mrs. Doubtfire came surprisingly close. With its take of $219 million, it trailed only megahit Jurassic Park in the box office race that year. That also makes it Robin Williams' biggest hit, as it narrowly edged out the $217 million Aladdin earned the prior year. (Williams' next most successful live action movie was Good Will Hunting, while Patch Adams was the next biggest hit in which he was the star.)

Mrs. Doubtfire is a film that I grudgingly find to be watchable and somewhat entertaining. I'm not much of a fan of Williams. After all these years, his shtick has lost much of its appeal for me, and his terrifying shift into all those horrible "feel good" movies just gives me the willies. However, I don't deny that Williams has a tremendous amount of talent, and Mrs. Doubtfire nicely complements Aladdin in that the two probably have best displayed his particular skills.

The main difference between the two films is that Aladdin still would have been a good film without Williams, whereas there's an extremely good chance that Doubtfire would have been simply pathetic in his absence. It's already treading a thin line between funny and sickening, and the loss of Williams' talent would have pushed into the realm of cute and saccharine quite easily.

That would have happened for two reasons: Columbus and costar Sally Field. The less said about Field the better. Admittedly she looked terrific in Doubtfire when one considers that she was nearing 50, but I've always found her to be a cloying and annoying actress. I won't say that she's necessarily bad - it's hard to argue that when she won two Academy Awards in five years - but I will say that she tends to be a grating and unpleasant presence.

I have no idea what kind of presence Columbus brings to the table, but I can view his body of work and see that it doesn't exactly inspire hosannas of praise from me. Like Patch Adams director Tom Shadyac, Columbus specializes in mildly outrageous, moderately funny but ultimately heartwarming little films. When he hits, he hits big, but unfortunately for him, Doubtfire is his only successful movie that doesn't have Home Alone in the title. (He also directed that film's $172 million grossing sequel.) Stepmom and Nine Months are further examples of his work and they show that he needs someone to whom the audience responds as a major comedy presence for his films to prosper. No, he couldn't act, but there's no question that moviegoers loved that obnoxious Macaulay Culkin.)

Mrs. Doubtfire is exactly what I think of when I consider the idea of the sort of film that's supposed to be popular in middle America: bland, saccharine, modestly funny and slightly outrageous at times. Now, I'm not saying this is what folks in the "great American heartland" mainly enjoy, but it does match my stereotypical idea of their kind of fare. It's not a movie I'd see doing well with the hipster crowds.

I suppose that's neither bad nor good, sort of like Mrs. Doubtfire. Yes, I'm tremendously ambivalent about the film. There's so much about it that I dislike - Field, their "charming" kids, the cutesy situations and gags, and Williams when he's not being funny; that's when he enters that much-too-earnest mode that makes up 95 percent of his acting these days. Yet I ultimately find the movie to be fairly enjoyable. I'll never be much of a fan of the movie, and it's the kind of picture that I'm embarrassed to tell friends that I like at all, but it essentially delivers the goods that it promised and does so fairly efficiently. That's faint praise, but faint praise beats no praise at all.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Mrs. Doubtfire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the appearance of this film seemed spotty, as it could look quite good or quite ordinary.

The image looked reasonably sharp much of the time but suffered from softness during more than a few shots. Usually wide shots were the least defined. Jagged edges and strobing were definite distractions, as the movie often took on a loose, ropy look. Notable edge enhancement led to more looseness, and a mix of source flaws appeared. I detected occasional specks, marks and nicks. These weren’t overwhelming but they distracted at times.

On the positive side, colors appeared quite bold and accurate. The movie went with a natural palette that it painted in lively tones. Black levels seemed deep and firm, while shadows were reasonably clear and smooth. Interiors could be a little muddy, but those weren’t overwhelming. The mix of good and bad left this as a mediocre transfer.

Mrs. Doubtfire offered a perfectly competent Dolby Digital 5.0 mix. It's a track that seemed more than adequate for a comedy. Dialogue sounded generally rich and natural, although some obviously looped lines often entered the equation. Effects also seemed clear and realistic. The film's score appeared fairly smooth and melodic, and music as a whole was lively and fairly warm.

The front channels displayed some pretty good stereo separation. Dialogue always remained front and center, but a decent number of effects appeared in the right and left channels, and the music used all of these speakers nicely. The surround channels seemed underused and didn't display any audio other than musical fills and very occasional ambient effects. Still, while it's not a great soundtrack, it did what it needed to do, so I thought it was effective.

Doubtfire includes a good mix of extras. First up is an interesting audio commentary from director Chris Columbus. He offers a running, screen-specific track. You may notice something unusual in the way he speaks, and that stems from the fact that it sounds like he's reading his comments. I don't know that for certain, but it seems very likely. His pacing and tone resembled those of someone working from notes.

That's not a bad thing, though. I really appreciate the fact that Columbus apparently prepared so well for the track. While this doesn't result in a great commentary - and it also doesn't do away with more than a few empty spots during which there's no info - it does make sure that subjects are covered thoroughly and effectively. What Columbus loses in spontaneity, he gains in organization. He covers a wide variety of topics and adds quite a lot to the viewer's understanding of the film. We get details about cast, characters and performances, pacing, story and editing, locations and sets, makeup and visuals issues, and a plethora of other production topics. It's a very informative track and is one I'll definitely revisit in the future.

16 Deleted Scenes fill a total of about 29 minutes. Most of them are snippets that add to already established concepts. Although they aren't bits taken from existing scenes, they trod territory that's covered elsewhere, and while many of them are very good and entertaining, this redundancy is probably why they weren't used. One shot I really wish had stayed in adds onto the scene in which Doubtfire spikes some food with hot pepper; it's hilarious and I think it would have maintained the flow of the film well, so I'm not sure why it was cut.

The biggest omission that's covered in these deleted scenes is a running relationship between Doubtfire and a nosy neighbor played by Polly Holliday. In the completed film, Holliday barely exists, so it's good to see all the work she did. The scenes are pretty good, but they clearly were extremely superfluous and were an easy target for removal. The pieces would have worked in the film, but I understand why they went when the picture ran long.

Two of the unused scenes are also presented with two different takes. For one of these - more of Williams' antics during the climactic restaurant segment - the two takes differ only minimally, but the other becomes a completely different scene the second time around. The shots involve Doubtfire and the bus driver who has a crush on her; he finally makes a move. One take goes for sweet and touching, whereas the other aims for laughs. I prefer the first one, and although this scene was also not really missed in the final cut, it's another that I wish had stayed.

All in all, this is a terrific collection of outtakes. My only complaint regards the way in which they're presented. All 29 minutes of clips appear in one big program that lacks chapter stops; it doesn't even display the elapsed time! That means that if you want to access one clip in particular, it's a tedious proposition. Still, considering the quality of the scenes, it's probably worth it.

Many more shots from the set are included in the other supplements. One wonderful piece depicts four minutes of various make-up tests used to work on the Doubtfire character. These are quite entertaining. Some show Williams riffing to the camera, whereas some others have him interact with Field and their kids. I love this kind of raw material and found this stuff to be delightful.

Also fun is another four-minute segment that encapsulates the process used to turn Williams into Doubtfire. Williams introduces the Make-up Application featurette and then main make-up artist Ve Neill narrates it. It's more "nuts and bolts" than most of the stuff here, and it offers a nice glimpse at all the painstaking work that went into his transformation.

The Mrs. Doubtfire DVD presents about eight minutes worth of Cast Interviews. Approximately eight minutes of these show the various actors talking about their casting and their work. We hear from Harvey Fierstein, Robin Williams, Mara Wilson, Matt Lawrence, Lisa Jakub, Sally Field, and Pierce Brosnan. While the segment is too brief - there must be more they could have shown - it's interesting nonetheless.

A separate five minute piece offers Comments from Chuck Jones. The legendary animator talks about the cartoon he created for the film's opening. It's okay, but as is the case with some of the cast interviews - and too much material involved with Williams' films - Jones spends much of his time telling us how inventive and creative Williams is. We know - we get it! Sometimes I wonder if Williams has self-esteem problems and he pays DVD producers to add in all of these laudatory comments from coworkers.

We also get the entire Final Animation Sequence. In the finished film, we only see bits of it, and usually in the background, but here we get to watch the entire six-minute film. It's not a classic, but it's fun to watch. We also receive a two-minute pencil test for the short. It didn't do much for me, but I won't complain about its inclusion.

Finally, the DVD includes some promotional ads. We get a very good teaser trailer - which includes some snippets not found in the film or in the supplements - plus the full theatrical trailer and a TV spot.

Although I remain not overly fond of Mrs. Doubtfire, it's hard not to recommend this DVD. The film isn't a classic, but it's still pretty entertaining and it holds up to repeated viewings very nicely. The image seems mediocre, but sound is pretty good and the supplements are entertaining. Due to the lackluster visuals, I can’t call this a great DVD, but it seems satisfactory overall.

To rate this film visit the Behind-The-Seams Edition review of MRS. DOUBTFIRE

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