Sep 13, 2013

[Movies] Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

For the most part, Tobie and I enjoy media content that we have direct access to and thus control over. The television experience isn't quite the ideal model for viewing in this day and age of DVD players and DVR playback. Why wait for a scheduled viewing when you can catch the whole season of a television series in one go.

But there is something to be said about turning on the TV, tuning into a channel and being surprised by what comes on. This is especially true for money channels, no matter how many times they repeat flicks within a day.

So in our case, it was the surprise of finding ourselves getting sucked into watching Mrs. Doubtfire again. It is by no means the best movie around, but it was a solid piece of entertainment and one of those movies that can be counted among the funniest Robin Williams made. And in the context of the recent successes with the LGBT rights movement and things of that nature, I wonder how people look at cross-dressing now.

And yes, I know that cross-dressing isn't immediately associated with being LGBT. And you should know that by now, too.

Synopsis: Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 comedy movie based on the novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine. It was directed by Chris Columbus with a screenplay by Randi Mayem Singer and Leslie Dixon. It won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and frequently ranks high on various lists of top comedy movies.

Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is being divorced by his wife Miranda (Sally Field) given how he has proven to be a rather immature and irresponsible husband. But the man is a good father to his three kids and the divorce and the fact that it is taking him away from his kids is a rather traumatizing experience. He needs to get a stable job and a decent place to stay before he has any chance of sharing custody of his kids again.

But when Daniel finds out that Miranda is going to hire a housekeeper to take care of the kids, he comes up with an insane scheme to spend more time with them. He manages to alter Miranda's classified ad so he's the only one who can contact her. And this ultimately leads to him working with his makeup artist brother Frank (Harvey Fierstein) to create an alternate identity - this being Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, who seems to be the perfect British nanny. Of course Mrs. Doubtfire gets the job.

I have never read the book that this movie was inspired from - in fact I only found out about it in the course of researching for this particular review. I bring this up only to wonder how much of the book made it into the movie and how much may have been twisted around by Robin Williams. As we all know, he's rather notorious for ad lib and such and thus his mere presence in a movie could potentially change the original script. All this and he never gets writing credits.

But the premise of the movie does seem so crazy and left field that one can't help but think that it was just the sort of zaniness that only Williams could bring to life. I honestly can't imagine any other actor bring this character to life to such positive effect.

The make-up used for Mrs. Doubtfire was pretty impressive indeed. Yes, at the end of the day she isn't exactly the most attractive old lady, but she can pass for the most part. And this was the full nine yards of a fat suit and other prosthetic applications augmented by makeup. And that kind of physical effects brilliance isn't seen as much these days given the prevalence of CGI usage in movies these days.

The movie is a classic mix of witty one liners and some major physical comedy executed quite well by Robin Williams. This is the part of the movie that really has me saying that he was in top form in this movie and even after so many years there are scenes that just have me laughing like crazy. Sally Field was an interesting choice for his in-movie wife, although she does have the whole concerned mother role down pat by now. The kids were okay too, but not quite distinct individually. You really just treat them as a collective - the Kids.

It amazes that Mrs. Doubtfire is considered to be a family movie by most despite the cross-dressing aspect. And it really should be that way since the cross-dressing is just a narrative device and not a central statement about the practice or anything crazy like that. So I'm happy to still rate it as 4 crazy makeup accidents out of a possible 5.

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