Mrs Doubtfire made me laugh so many times it lifted my mood and left me smiling for ages afterwards. Robin Williams quite simply gave the comedic performance of his life and was given creative license by director Christopher Columbus to do this. It is a film I’d recommend, mainly because of the two reasons mentioned above.
Main character, Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a voice actor. We get a taste of what his range is, by seeing him voicing two cartoon characters. In real life, by this stage of his career, Williams had himself, already done an amazing job voicing the Genie in ‘Aladdin’, (later he would continue with voice work, by lending his voice to Ramon, in ‘Happy Feet.’)
The set-up of the story is that despite son Chris’ poor report card, dad Daniel decides on running the family with a focus on all out fun, infuriating his wife, Miranda (Sally Field). In a moment, the laughs stop and the tone becomes serious and it suddenly became a lot more difficult to enjoy the film. Miranda files for divorce, wins custody of the kids, and Daniel, on the other hand, is only allowed to see them once a week.
This situation doesn’t last long though, as Daniel springs into action when his wife begins looking for a housekeeper. He approaches his homosexual makeup artist brother (Harvey Fierstein) asking “Could you make me a woman?” Step forward Mrs Doubtfire. It really is quite a weird, bizarre sight at first and I’m sure Miranda would have been just a wee bit suspicious. Unsurprisingly he ticks all the boxes as a perfect housekeeper and begins looking after his own kids, while also building a new life as a shipping clerk for a TV station.
Whilst strict at first, all three kids soon warm to Mrs Doubtfire; as does Miranda who enjoys the observational humour of the passionate nanny. There are lots and lots of laughs; I found the most memorably funny scene to be the one where Daniel takes desperate measures after a woman knocks on the door. To avoid being seen without a mask he sticks his head into a meringue cake. As he offers her a cup of tea the cream falls off his face, straight into the woman’s tea. Classic!
When seriousness kicks in again, things – of course- go down a notch. Miranda brings her new boyfriend Stu (Pierce Brosnan) home, which immediately enrages Daniel. The delightful old granny is nothing but sour grapes towards Stu, and finds opportunities to troll him whenever possible. This strange mix of high comedy and intense drama, all the way up to the climax, made me think that much of what was on screen, was a bit too heavy for a family movie.
Christopher Columbus succeeds with giving Robin Williams license to act as he sees fit, thus providing many opportunities to let the audience laugh uproariously. However, Pierece Brosnan aside, no one else on the cast list wooed me much. There were some flat performances.
If there has ever been a film where an actor, can singlehandedly carry a film from mediocre to good, it is what Robin Williams does with Mrs Doubtfire. He will be sorely missed in the acting profession. Robin William’s tragic death on 12 August 2014 has robbed us of the opportunity to see him crafting characters that make us laugh, but make us think too, as he did with Mrs Doubtfire.