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  • Writer's pictureBryce Chismire

Mrs. Doubtfire - 30th Anniversary Review

Has there ever been a comedian as zany, bountifully creative, irresistibly hilarious, and heartfelt as Robin Williams?

Being an early ’90s kid, one of my biggest introductions to him was as the Genie in Aladdin, where his comedic talents, heartfelt acting, and tender moments in between remained rampant even through animation. It played a part in this movie being one of my all-time favorites, and it still is even today.

Outside of being fortunate enough to have been acquainted with him this way, I gradually realized how much of a comedic influence and genius Robin Williams was. From his smash roles in such films as Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting, Williams’ overwhelming improvisations and clever little zingers unleashed a whirlwind of priceless jokes one minute while he brought forth the tenderness of a complex man in another. But what also made him famous, in a more solemn sense, was his battles with depression, which sadly culminated in his suicide in 2013.

However, Aladdin wasn’t the only movie where Robin Williams’ acting and sense of humor were simultaneously at their zenith, and it wasn’t my only introduction to him and his talents.

The other movie I speak of where such bolts of lightning struck twice to me is Mrs. Doubtfire.

I will come clean about this: much like Jurassic Park and even Titanic, Mrs. Doubtfire was one of those movies rated above PG that I became vaguely acquainted with as a little kid despite not being the right age to watch it. Even then, I mostly only understood what happened in either film once I revisited them through a savvier lens years later.

From L to R: Mara Wilson, Robin Williams, Matthew Lawrence, Lisa Jakub

On the surface, Mrs. Doubtfire’s story is also quite solemn.

Based on the novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine, the film follows a San Francisco couple, Daniel and Miranda Hillard, who were pains in each other’s necks because of their clashes in personality. Daniel was wild and almost irresponsible, quit one too many jobs, and was more of an easygoing father who wanted to take advantage of the best in life, especially with his children, Lydia, Chris, and Natalie. His wife, Miranda, was one of the CEOS of Gregory Henderson & Hillard Designs and a workaholic, to the point where she could barely spend any quality time with her children. But things started going further downhill when Daniel decided to throw a birthday party for Chris that aroused police attention and, I will admit, looked like the elementary school equivalent of the party from Sixteen Candles. Once Miranda caught on to this, she and Daniel had a falling out, and she decided to file a divorce.

The kids, especially Daniel, were crushed by this news, and Daniel was still convinced that there was some shred of connection he and Miranda still shared, especially as far as their kids were concerned. Their latest court session over this matter limited Daniel to being available for his kids only once every Saturday, on top of finding a new residence and job within three months. In addition, he had to be checked up once every several days by his court liaison, Mrs. Sellner. When he heard that Miranda was looking for a nanny to watch over the kids while she was away at work, he had a plan. He decided to participate as a nanny, specifically by cross-dressing as a British nanny named Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, who had experience in housekeeping and babysitting. Because of the soft, striking tone and disposition he used for his identity, he won Miranda over and their kids, too, fooling them into thinking he was a wholly separate person from the man Miranda divorced.

Along the way, however, as Daniel got more comfortable in his newfound outfit, which his gay brother Frank and his partner Jack helped make for him, he gradually started to take his authoritarian position in the household more seriously this time, picking up on valuable life lessons in so doing. He cooked meals for the kids, tidied up the house for or with them, and even had them tend to their homework and bettered them as people as he went along. So, he was getting off on the right foot with them.

However, because Daniel’s family couldn’t have found themselves in better spirits without Mrs. Doubtfire, this was putting pressure on him as he tried to settle into his new position while also getting comfortable in his new job at the television studio. His latest gig that he walked out of was in a cartoon studio where he voiced a parrot. I’ll elaborate more on the cartoon soon. Here, Daniel was hired to work on shipping film reels before his impersonations, and, eventually, his Mrs. Doubtfire persona attracted the attention of the TV executive, Mr. Lundy, who was impressed by his talents and considered hiring him for potential children’s programs.

Outside of that, how long could Daniel have kept his façade as the supreme British nanny going before the jig was up? And who would’ve caught on to this sooner?

As I got more acquainted with Robin Williams and his accomplishments, I recalled how, one, he was a master comedian, and, two, he proved himself to be an equally effective actor in more dramatic circumstances. Here? It might be one of those films I’ve seen where Williams’ mastery of his comedic and dramatic talents was in equal play, and they all worked in the right moments. I appreciate how the events in the story helped support the two sides of Robin Williams’ talents. His eclectic and bountiful deliveries, plus his determination to find a job before finding one that seemed to reflect them, went hand in hand with his comedic juggernauts of jokes and zingers. Meanwhile, his performance as his Mrs. Doubtfire persona, plus his family dilemmas, reflected his more heartfelt moments when he grappled with dire situations. I almost felt like I got a glimpse of Robin Williams’ highlights of his talents all in one movie.

Before I start my thoughts on the movie, let me tell you exactly how I became acquainted with this movie, especially at such a young age. When I was only a little kid, the closest thing to this film I was the most familiar with was the opening cartoon playing in the recording studio as Daniel did the voiceover of Pudgy the Parrakeet. This cartoon is reminiscent of Tom and Jerry and the Looney Tunes cartoons starring Sylvester and Tweety, with the parrot being at odds with a hungry blue cat. Being primarily accustomed to Disney, I got a massive kick out of this cartoon despite the movie being PG-13, but I didn't know that. The only thing about the cartoon that turned Daniel off and prompted him to quit was the scenes of the parrot being forced to smoke a cigarette, which is understandable, given how glamorized it appeared to be.

But only until much later did I realize that the mastermind behind this cartoon was none other than the legendary Chuck Jones himself. That just blew my mind. The same animator who worked on the Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, and even specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas went ahead and made this cute little cartoon – with some elaborate, Victorian-like backgrounds to emulate the San Francisco neighborhood and house, I might add – for only a couple minutes of film. Well, he made the most of it! It’s always amazing to return to specific animated properties you enjoyed as a kid only to find something else to appreciate as an adult, right?

This reminds me; I remember reading that before this, Chuck Jones called Aladdin, which also starred Robin Williams, the funniest movie he had ever seen. Considering that this came from one of the masters of animation, that’s a huge badge of honor for a film like Aladdin to wear. But that makes me wonder, was Jones so wowed by Williams’ performance in the movie that he gladly volunteered to participate in whatever project Williams was doing next? And that it amounted to this cartoon being made for Mrs. Doubtfire? It’s possible, but I can’t resist this being a strong likelihood.

Also, remember what I said about watching the Free Willy VHS tape and how I only watched the first half hour or so of the tape, including the movie? Well, while I only made it to the first half hour or so of the Mrs. Doubtfire VHS, I did not entirely grasp what went on outside of the severity of the party causing a negative ripple effect on the neighborhood. And, of course, I never even understood the meaning of divorce when I heard the characters mentioning it.

But...I did not fully grasp the meaning or effects of divorce until I saw The Pursuit of Happyness in high school, where I witnessed Chris Gardner and his wife’s relationship crumbling. Once it was clear that the mother left Gardner and his son, Christopher, for good, only then did I finally catch on to what divorce means, and much later did I catch on to what consequences this would have had on the children stuck in the middle of this debacle.

So, once I rewatched Mrs. Doubtfire, from beginning to end this time, I finally understood what was going on with Daniel and Miranda, what that meant to poor Lydia, Chris, and Natalie…and I must say, this film only felt even more magnificent for tackling such a messy topic so delicately.

It highlighted the long-term effects that follow after a divorce claim and what effects this would have had on either the mother, the father, or especially their kids. The mother, Miranda, looked at this thinking as if it would’ve helped get some weight off her shoulders, helped her focus more on work, and helped give her a chance to see her kids however she saw fit. To the kids, however, they were discouraged by the news, to say the least, for they would rather have had their father around than be put under the watchful care of some nanny hired to look after them. Lydia was notably the most vocal about this, wondering what the point was of being watched over by a nanny when they could easily have had their father to tend to them.

And Daniel? Boy, was he crushed by this. Much like Miranda, he loved his children so much, but the methods in which he displayed his love for them instead expressed itself as a most unorthodox and problematic method of affection. To put it this way, Miranda was a workaholic who tried to make ends meet and get the job done but barely had enough time for her children and looked at Daniel like he was too out of control to be a good father. At the same time, Daniel was wild, energetic, quit one job after the next since many of them didn’t fit what he wanted out of the job, and he saw his children all the time while looking at Miranda like she was too uptight to be a good mother. So, this kind of difference in personalities and almost in philosophies caused them to butt heads even when they knew their children were just as involved in this as they were. Many intriguing issues such as these were highlighted here, and they all added up to a feast of food for thought concerning the fallout of divorce and what that would’ve meant to those involved.

But that’s not the only reason I like Daniel and Miranda so much as characters. In many stories about polar opposite characters who are close, it would’ve been easy to paint one character as too wild and immature while the other would be reasonable and tidy. Other times, it could be where one character is a humorless stick-in-the-mud while the other is more open and looks on the brighter side of life.

Daniel and Miranda, on the other hand, are far more complex than that, and they made it clear that they both loved their children very much but expressed different methods of showing it. Even after their divorce, they seemed as if they wanted to try and remain friends, especially when they wanted to help be there for their kids, except the court supervisions made things rather tricky for Daniel to visit his children, even if Miranda thought this would be for the best for herself and her children.

Plus, I thought various elements concerning Miranda and Daniel as individuals were intriguing, too.

For one, despite being responsible for filing the divorce and causing most of the drama that unfurled for herself and her family, Miranda still looked at this and wondered whether she did the right thing, especially as far as her kids were concerned. Plus, she started going out with an old friend from many years back named Stuart Dunmeyer, who came from London and, just like Miranda, was a set decorator. Being a hard-working mother, you can understand her desperation to free herself from Daniel’s antics, even if she felt like it would cost her and her kids dearly. So, it shows that for all her workaholic tendencies, Miranda tried to be there for her kids and try to have a life of her own. I admire her adequacy and disposition the more I let it sink in.

Daniel was generally wacky and irresponsible, but his mannerisms and convictions highlighted his wanting to be there for his kids, even when his parenting skills may have shown otherwise. When you look closely at him, you can tell that there was an inner kid inside of him who wanted to scream out for joy and unleash all the excitement and fun that he thought the kids deserved. However, Daniel’s reckless manners of doing so, like at Chris’ birthday party or whenever he joked around at the most inappropriate times, instead set the stage for his and Miranda’s divorce. Part of it seemed like Daniel caught on to the consequences his behavior would’ve entailed and how he needed to grow up and prove himself as a well-meaning adult. When he donned the outfit of the British nanny and sank into his role, the role began to open him up more to what it means to be a good nanny, an excellent authoritarian figure, and, in his case, a good father. You can say this was an opportunity for him to get a much more thorough understanding of what needs to be done right for his kids and try to reassure Miranda of what steps she’s taking and whether they’re the right ones to take when she’s still in the phase of the divorce she filed.

There are so many layers and issues exposed with Daniel and Miranda that they felt like real people, and you’d be hard-pressed to go on one side or the other.

Of course, the only thing Daniel did that I thought felt too underhanded for someone like him was to change around a few digits in Miranda’s newspaper ad to hire a new nanny, to ensure that anyone who dialed the number he snuck in would’ve called the wrong residence and leave only him to dial Miranda’s original number. That rubbed me the wrong way a little, but again, I understood where he was coming from, considering his desperate need to be with his children again.

As for their children, Lydia, Chris, and Natalie, they all felt like decent, modest children who’d all been savvy enough of their parents’ fights to try to understand what would happen to them. Natalie, the youngest at five years old, was saddened by this and unsure how to respond whenever her parents’ divorce was brought up. Or, she just picked up on something that piqued her interest in her 5-year-old innocence, accidental as it ended up being at times. Chris, the middle child and only son, felt like he took more after his father. He may have been the slacker among the kids, for he reportedly didn’t do very well on his grades; that was the reason he was denied a birthday party in the first place before Daniel went ahead and arranged it for him. But because the party played a role in his parents’ divorce, he partially felt guilty about it. Arguably, the one who felt the most affected by this was the eldest child, Lydia, who wondered why Daniel couldn’t have seen them at the appropriate times instead of being watched over by a visiting stranger. Plus, being the eldest child gave her a sense of disposition and heresy among the Hillard children, so she may have had some firsthand experience of what happened within the family for as long as she was alive.

Once Mrs. Doubtfire came into the picture, ‘her’ sense of discipline and tender loving care for the children helped them open their eyes bit by bit about what kind of supportive care they needed in such hard times as those surrounding divorce. It helped unlock the fullest potential each of the kids had, just as much as it started to for Daniel and, in some cases, Miranda, too.

Miranda’s new boyfriend – and fellow set designer – Stuart Dunmeyer, seemed to carry some vibes concerning a proper British sophisticate, even if not all of it helped convey much personality out of him. But I will say this: for someone you’d generally expect to be the automatic love rival in any romance story, Stu instead showed up as an old friend who legitimately wished for the best for Miranda and Daniel before deciding to give his relationship with Miranda another shot. And whereas some love rivals – Edward from Three Men and a Little Lady, for example – would’ve been interested only in his girlfriend and tried to send her children off elsewhere, Stu was nothing like that. Instead, he admitted having a soft spot for Miranda’s children, especially Natalie, and he was even shown having some decent, engaging conversations with them about his European background. That means that whenever I saw Daniel responding negatively to his antics, it felt more equivalent to what anyone would’ve assumed of this character without giving it much thought. As standard as this character is, what I unpacked about this character just now took me by surprise. It shows you that you don’t need a stereotypical love rival to add to the drama, just the right circumstances to contribute to it in a juicy, more natural way. Stu was more like Victoria from Sleepless in Seattle and maybe Baroness Elsa von Schraeder from The Sound of Music.

Mr. Jonathan Lundy, the TV head of KTVU Television Studios, seemed like a pleasant and astute businessman who desperately wanted to find the right entertainment that he believed would draw his viewers in, especially kids. After his latest show, complete with an unenthusiastic host demonstrating how dinosaurs lived – to generally boring results – he started seeing talent in Daniel after hearing his opinions on the show and witnessing some of his improvisational skills. For all his lightness as a character, he’s shown to have expressed some slight consideration in his demeanor as his target demographics and coworkers were concerned.

Daniel’s brother, Frank, seemed more like a decent, mellow guy specializing in masks and costumes. As shown throughout the movie, he did most of his projects with his partner and possible husband, Jack. Daniel even referred to them as Uncle Frank and Aunt Jack to Chris and Lydia. Even though they were not in the movie as extensively as I thought they were, Frank and Jack stood out to me as the type of characters who were refreshingly a different pack from the rest. And because Daniel was Frank’s brother, they were willing to give him a hand in his post-divorce conditions or design the mask and outfit for Daniel to wear upon his ascension back into the household as the family nanny. Plus, this movie came out in 1993, and I might be mistaken here, but I think Frank and Jack pioneered for cinema what Ricky from My So-Called Life and Ellen DeGeneres both did for television a couple of years down the line.

The performances in this movie are also one of the chief reasons this movie works so well. But before I dispel the most notable actors and actresses and their performances in this movie, especially Robin Williams, let’s talk about Sally Field.

What she brought to the table as Miranda Hillard generally felt keen and understandable to the point of almost feeling immaculate. Every time you see Field speaking about all the mishaps in her life, she always responded to it with hesitance or disdain, but not in a way that hinted at negligence. Instead, Miranda did so with some potential guilt at what she had done. The result conveyed her as a distressed mother at the end of her rope as far as Daniel was concerned and wanted to do what she thought was best for herself and her kids. Judging from her inflections, you can also tell that she either had a lot on her mind or still tried to work her way through the mess in which she was trapped.

However, there were a couple of occasions in the movie where I believe she flat-out nailed it as Miranda, so much so that they nearly put her on par with Robin Williams with his performance.

One was at the beginning of the movie when she contemplated her decision to divorce Daniel following the disastrous birthday party. As she argued and then talked with Daniel about the current condition of their relationship, I could tell that she’d given her relationship and marriage with Daniel some severe thought. And when she realized what she must do, she gave off expressions that visually said, “I so don’t want to do this, but I have no choice.” You can read such expressions all over her face as she made that fateful decision, and it’s done wonderfully.

The second is when she caught on to Mrs. Doubtfire’s identity and discovered that ‘she’ was Daniel all along. Finding out that someone you grew close with happened to be the same person you knew and gave up in the family is bound to enact a myriad of emotions ranging from shock, anger, surprise, confusion, etc. And Field’s reactions as Miranda thought-processed what she just discovered of Mrs. Doubtfire in that moment were freaking priceless! You can tell she had no idea what to think of Daniel, her ex-husband, as the new nanny.

And, for all the times in the movie where Miranda seemed sensible, Field nailed that aspect with her character, too, and it all fit.

The performances by the actors playing the Hillard children also did well with what they were given. Matthew Lawrence conveyed Chris's boyish antics while also displaying some more maturity behind Chris’s tactics as he comprehended the life situations in front of him, especially regarding his homework or soccer practices.

Lisa Jakub, as Lydia, conveyed just the proper inflections to hone more of her eldest-child maturity into her general demeanor. The way she sounded natural yet frustrated about her father not being around for everything she and her brother and sister did together hit home how much the divorce hurt her. And when Lydia started to get more comfortable with ‘Mrs. Doubtifre’, only then did she begin to express more of her sensible natures as the eldest child in the family.

Mara Wilson as Natalie? Well, let’s see. At first, she sounded like she didn’t convey the proper deliveries, vocally speaking, fit for conveyance through a young girl who slightly understood that her parents were getting divorced. However, as the rest of the move went along, she sounded more like she got the hang of it and conveyed Natalie’s 5-year-old exclamations with a hint of her cutesy nature. While not all her performances were of Oscar caliber, I can tell how much she made it work when some facets of her performance sounded right. She’s a bit like Macaulay Culkin; sometimes, she would’ve said her lines with deliveries expected to draw attention to her demeanor, especially as she went on with her allegedly intelligent remarks. Other times, she would’ve conveyed just the proper inflections necessary to pull off an appropriate performance depending on the experiences and age of the character she played and add to her charm. Plus, while some of her vocal deliveries felt too syrupy, her expressions generally felt on point. Something about Wilson’s performance still embodied a sense of innocence and demeanor fit for girls her age, at least in this movie, regardless of whatever stuck-up people may find Wilson too cutesy for them to care or appreciate what genuine talents she exhibited now and then.

I’m looking at you, Nostalgia Critic.

So, Wilson’s performance was not high caliber, but it was by no means awful, either.

Also, I will admit that I didn’t find Pierce Brosnan’s performance too hot. Granted, part of it came with the British know-how and the sensibilities that came with it, but when he had to pair them up with his feelings for Miranda, especially since they were both old friends, or towards her children, they just felt a bit lost in the shuffle. I hoped that maybe he would’ve expressed more of a sophisticated gentleman vibe to him and looked like a potential suit for Miranda despite Daniel being her proper fit. But to watch him play Stuart with enough modesty to hit home how he’s not some automatic love rival that Daniel was supposed to compete against still feels admirable. In short, his performance, too, felt hit-and-miss.

Harvey Fierstein as Frank…what more can I say? His voice would always be recognizable because of how raspy it is. However, his general tone as he spoke with Daniel about his predicaments and what kind of outfit he could’ve arranged for him still displayed the tendencies of an understanding brother with a sense of professionalism. Frankly, I was first acquainted with Fierstein in Mulan as Yao, which, coincidentally enough, also centered around a central character cross-dressing to partake in a significant undertaking. So, watching him oversee the masks and costumes of their making, especially for Daniel, felt and sounded engaging to see. The actor playing Jack, his husband, didn’t display much, but he seemed like a decent male mate for Frank.

And finally…

That’s right. Robin Williams.

As expected from a master comedian and gifted actor like Robin Williams, he took on the role of Daniel Hillard with a bountiful amount of energy and heartfelt contemplations to match his character’s leisure and dilemmas. Whenever he was his wild self or doing his improvisational talents, he unleashed them in a blaze of glory, churning out one zinger after another in a matter of seconds. Even better, it all tied into Daniel’s character since he was good at doing voices and landed a job at a nearby television studio, even if he had to start by shipping film reels to nearby studios. But when Daniel was serious about either the divorce, his family, his kids, or his conditions, you could feel his angst and his hardcore desperation as he tried to be a part of his kids’ lives once again.

However, for all his unquestionable talent in this film, that’s not what makes Robin Williams’ role as legendary as the Genie in Aladdin. The real highlight of his performance was when Daniel donned his Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire outfit. This was just a masterstroke of genius. Whenever Williams got comfortable in his disguise, he conveyed just the pitch-perfect voice to emulate that of a sophisticated, cultured, experienced, and well-mannered British nanny. He nailed down his alter-ego’s convictions, elegance, delicacy, and supposed good taste as he prepared to take children like his own on some eye-opening adventures within the house. As I pointed out, what Daniel allowed Mrs. Doubtfire to teach his children, including responsibility, he ended up teaching himself as Daniel went along. He sank into this role like he unleashed a taste of all his inner talents while also allowing Mrs. Doubtfire to tell him what needed to be done for Daniel to prove himself as a worthy father figure to his kids. Whenever I think of performances of British nannies at their absolute best, I lean towards either Mary Poppins as Julie Andrews played her or Robin Williams’ performance as Mrs. Doubtfire.

However, it turned out Williams gave as stupendous a performance as his Doubtfire persona off-stage as he did on-stage.

As the movie was made, his son, Zack Williams, didn’t recognize that 'Mrs. Doubtfire' was his father. All it took was for ‘her’ to speak to him in Williams’ regular voice, just like Daniel did to clue Chris and Lydia into his real identity through vocal recognition. Robin Williams also decided to test his performance and outfit by simply wandering around in a nearby store. His general tone and appearance were so dead on that every time ‘Doubtfire’ spoke, ‘she’ fooled her passersby into thinking of ‘her’ as a genteel old lady who happened to be unusually tall.

The performance was that convincing.

On top of that, the makeup team who helped create Robin William’s mask and outfit so that his character Daniel would’ve become Mrs. Doubtfire? They also deserve all the credit. Never minding how we watched the makeup work-in-progress by Frank in the movie, you can tell that the real-life makeup artists went out of their way to highlight the feminine features of the British nanny Daniel became so he could be with his kids again. In so doing, they, along with the costume designers, helped compile an elaborate design that embodied the proper British lady aspects, both in the clothing and the facial features, and it helped bring the character of Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire to life as much as Robin Williams’ performance did. It was enough for them to earn an Oscar for best makeup, which I thought felt earned and most deserved.

I also admire Chris Columbus’ sense of directing in this picture. Knowing how well he hit it out of the park with John Hughes when they did Home Alone, especially after mastering the homelier aspects of suburban Chicago life, I could tell there was going to be some shred of homeliness apparent throughout Mrs. Doubtfire within the urban streets of San Francisco. With shows like Full House, that show mainly focused on the intimate aspects of family life and arguably not enough of the San Francisco lifestyle, but Mrs. Doubtfire managed to master both. That, and the idea of the kids of the house being in the company of someone new who came to oversee them, ties me back a little to when Kevin McCallister had to fend off people like Marv and Harry. But whereas in Kevin’s case, he learned how to defend himself in the face of encroaching danger, the Hillard kids learned to let their guard down when they knew they could’ve counted on someone understanding and willing to listen and discipline them the right way.

The story of Mrs. Doubtfire went through some significant modifications as far as its location was concerned. The original book took place in suburban England, which explains Mrs. Doubtfire’s British heritage, not to mention that of Stuart. However, while the movie decided to keep the characters’ foreign backgrounds, just like Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, it shifted the location to San Francisco to hone a more modern, potentially more American look. What a coincidence it is for both Homeward Bound and Mrs. Doubtfire to feature Sally Field and decide to shift the location of each of their source materials to places near or in San Francisco.

Now, I must highlight a few things that may feel uncomfortable here, but here goes.

Because this movie is about a man dressing up as a woman to get closer to his kids, it led to indirect visual and sometimes verbal quips about transgender people, with Daniel’s mix of masculine and feminine features being met with either confusion or disgust and suspicion. The sequence that highlighted this the most was when Daniel, as Mrs. Doubtfire, was caught with his pants down – literally – when Chris walked into the bathroom to see him urinating like a man instead of a woman. Chris freaked out over this, thinking that…

Accepting to work as a nanny to watch over children

+ having male and female body parts

+ hiding one’s sexuality throughout the whole stay in the household

= potential molester

…so he and Lydia tried to defend themselves in response to it. None of them outright mentioned the molesting portions of this discovery, but the implications are still there.

I can understand how this would cause queasy reactions these days, as sequences such as these could put transgender people in a negative light. But think about this. There have been some reports as of late about transgender people who turned out to have had their gender changed around – whether it was from a man into a woman or possibly from a woman into a man – not because that’s how they felt about themselves, but rather to gain either a political advantage or sexual advancements. The political gains are sadly and frustratingly becoming the norm these days, and the sexual advances, again, may have been what Chris and Lydia feared upon discovering Mrs. Doubtfire’s identity. If anything, they’re the ones doing the transgender people a grave injustice.

I’m not saying I’m transphobic. I’m far from that. And frankly, I don’t believe the film is, either. If I were around transgender people, rather than make a fuss about it in either a good or bad light, I would simply treat them like we all should treat anyone. The golden rule, anyone?

Besides, I’m not telling you what trans people would generally do. Rather, I’m telling you what some more unscrupulous trans people would generally do. There’s a huge difference.

If you watch this movie and feel like it’s too queasy to be appreciated among transgender people, I understand. But if they watch this and love it all the same, guess what? That’s okay, too!

L to R: Scott Capurro, Robin Williams, Harvey Fierstein

However, at the same time, this is coming from the same movie that was quite progressive in portraying homosexual relationships. Outside of Frank and Jack, you also have Mr. Lundy asking Daniel about his supposed ‘girlfriend’ and whether she had a girlfriend, to which Daniel responded, ‘Hey, it’s the 90s’. It’s fascinating how the film’s implications of transgender people would’ve raised some eyebrows, whereas its portrayal of gay people is positive and normal and thus ahead of its time. There’s a complicated LGBTQ representation at work here, but it is an impressive step forward in such representation, nonetheless, given the time it came out.

Frankly, though, I have questions about the movie’s eventual outcome. And be warned; there will be major spoilers afoot.


After Daniel was ousted due to his identity as Mrs. Doubtfire being revealed, he and Miranda went to court again. This time, because of his advancements in his outfit, and despite finding a residence and a sustainable paying job, his actions have now restricted him to having supervised visits with his children on top of psychiatric help. Now, the ruling, when assessed alongside what went down with Daniel and his family, is most understandable, and it was filled with validity in reasoning. But Miranda thought that the ruling was too extreme despite arranging it.

So, what happened?

After Daniel revealed his Mrs. Doubtfire disguise to Mr. Lundy by mistake and demonstrated his acting skills with it, he earned himself a new show centered on Mrs. Doubtfire as a main character and host of a new edutainment TV show. While that went on, Daniel was allowed to see his children every day to pick them up after school. When the kids asked Miranda how they did this, she said she worked it out with the judge.

How? How did she do that?

My only guess is that perhaps she, being one of the CEOS of Gregory Henderson & Hillard Designs, might have had some say about how a court ruling could’ve gone. Or maybe, because she was the one who instigated the court hearing, she tried to reason with the judge so that the restriction on Daniel wouldn’t have been so severe. Or perhaps, since she had an attorney with her, they all could've struck some deal to make it work in Daniel’s favor. I don’t know, but something must have happened for Miranda to have changed the judge’s mind when, usually, it’s the judge’s opinion that should be considered first and foremost.

At one point during production, one of the script treatments had it where Daniel and Miranda would’ve worked out their differences, reunited, and remarried. However, being divorcees themselves, Robin Williams, Sally Field, and Chris Columbus all shot down this idea, fearing that, to put it this way…

That’s another reason this film works so well; it was tended to by people who understood the complicated burdens of divorce through experience. And the way it ended highlighted that reality isn’t going to set a due course for everyone in life, especially as far as their families or friends are concerned. But that doesn’t mean they’d no longer be a part of each other’s lives. It’s an excellent way to hone the realism of the subject being addressed while ending the movie in a way that isn’t 100% all doom and gloom. It’s like the film is saying: as hard as it may hurt, it’s not the end of the world, not as much as it may seem.


Now, the music by Howard Shore can get a tad too sentimental. However, when it’s more modest and soothing, and not in an aggrandizing way, it conveys just the proper notes, tone, modulation, and strength to help emphasize the adequate dose of what went on in front of us on the screen.

On top of that, the songs used throughout the movie were eclectically chosen, as they helped play into the movie’s ideas of meshing feminist ideas with those of masculine ideals and displayed them in an admirably ironic fashion. They ranged from ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,’ Frank Sinatra’s ‘Luck Be a Lady, ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady,’ and Frankie Valli’s “Walk Like a Man”. It was my first introduction to them when I was younger, and every time I listen to these tunes, I still think back to this movie. Even the song played at the party at the beginning, ‘Jump Around,’ I still can’t listen without thinking back to the party in the movie.

Also, getting back to the animated sequence at the beginning of the movie, it began, as the studio logo kicked in, with the notes of the famous tune, Largo Al Factotum from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, leading to Robin Williams' vocalizations as he sang out the theme in full. It was my major introduction to classical music, too, and I have this movie to thank for cluing me to its richness and vast greatness.

Wow! First, Free Willy introduced me to Michael Jackson, then its VHS promos introduced me to Batman, and now, this movie introduced me to classical music and Chuck Jones’ animation! I must’ve had a more prosperous, generous childhood than I anticipated, and that’s one thing I feel thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Now that I think of it, this movie came out in 1993 at just the right time; for a film centered around divorce, it displayed so much to be thankful for both for its characters and the audience watching it. Many filmgoers would be right to pinpoint the blatantly familiar themes explored in this film, with the cross-dressing calling them back to Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman, while the divorce themes would likely call them back to films like Kramer vs. Kramer. But since Mrs. Doubtfire was my introduction to both topics, it made this film feel even more special to me.

The story is refreshingly realistic, the performances are exceptional, the characters are textured, the music is stylish, and the costuming and makeup help do wonders for this movie. Whenever any serious subject must be mentioned, it should be done with some semblance of intrigue to keep it interesting, whether through the writing or even with something like brighter colors, positive elements to balance out the darkness, or just plain goofiness. If they don’t clash against the serious matters at hand and at least attempt to work in cooperation with it, then you know you have a movie that’s guaranteed to do almost everything from making you laugh to making you cry. Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the more striking examples of Bathos and Pathos sharing the spotlight that I’ve yet known.

Pay Mrs. Doubtfire a visit. The enchantment you’d experience with her would do you wonders.

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