Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Review

In 1993′s Mrs. Doubtfire, the great Robin Williams’s cleverness and comic timing transcended the boundaries of the typical family film and made it legitimately funny. Williams plays Daniel Hillard, a sporadically employed actor and devotedly loving father to his three kids. He’s the “fun” parent, the one whose idea of an impromptu birthday party features a petting zoo and dancing on the furniture. For Daniel’s wife, Miranda (Sally Field), the fun ended a long time ago. Tired of playing the stern taskmaster, she demands a divorce.

The judge decrees that Daniel can only see the kids on weekends, which is unacceptable to him. Looking for any way to spend time with them, he doctors Miranda’s ad for a housekeeper, dons tons of make-up, and fashions an English accent out of Masterpiece Theater. Voila, now he’s Mrs. Doubtfire, the coolest nanny ever!

What begins as a way to see his kids gets complicated when Mrs. Doubtfire becomes a crucial part in the unknowing family’s life. The kids love her and Miranda considers her a confidante. When Miranda starts dating a hunky ex-flame (Pierce Brosnan), the line between performance and real life gets very blurry, especially since Mrs. Doubtfire turns Daniel into a better father.

The movie’s success relies on a delicate balance. Williams handles the dual roles expertly; he restrains his id just enough when under layers of latex and padding, delivering a series of puns and one-liners that keeps the movie lively and dramatically credible. The script (co-written by Leslie Dixon of 2003′s Freaky Friday) handles comedy and growing pains with equal skill. Mrs. Doubtfire doesn’t deal with divorce as a punch line, but as a life situation a shattered family has to handle.