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Mrs. Doubtfire

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
Robin Williams stars in this 1993 film about a man who badly wants to see his children again after he's just gone through a painful divorce. Rather than sinking deeper into depression about the situation, he hatches a plan: become the children's new nanny.

Williams created his most commercially successful premise with this film, but I didn't always feel that it was successful as a film. We believe that his family would fall for the deception of "Mrs. Doubtfire" and for a while, the premise does hold it's share of laughs. Under those laughs though, is a little too much sadness. The movie just doesn't create the right balance of drama and comedy for me, and towards the end, the comedy of Williams as Doubtfire begins to feel strained.

Williams certainly gives a strong performance, but he's backed by a plot and story that certainly feels more like a sitcom than a fully-written movie.

The DVD VIDEO: This is an average non-anamorphic transfer from Fox. Where Fox has brought out titles this week that I felt were acceptable, watchable non-anamorphic transfers(like Big), Mrs. Doubtfire has its share of problems. Images are generally clear and crisp, although not razor sharp. Colors aren't problematic, but they don't seem to be as vibrant as they could be.

The biggest problems are shimmering and some instances where horizontal lines look jagged and jumpy. Usually, this occurs to a point where I can go on enjoying the movie and not have them take my focus away from what is going on. Not the case here. There also seems to be a scratch or two on the print, but really nothing distracting. I don't want to sound like this image is consistently a total failure. That's not the case- it's not "Disney Awful", like what we've seen from Disney on films like "Quiz Show". It's just a film where obviously using the same materials used to make the laserdisc just doesn't do the image justice at all. Using the same materials as the laserdisc rarely does any film justice- it's unfortunate that studios don't understand that. The image here is letterboxed at around 2.35:1.

SOUND: "Mrs. Doubtfire" is a fairly small soundtrack, mainly based around dialogue, with a few tiny effects. Music does rise up nicely throughout the room and the score sounds clear and without problems. Dialogue sounds clear and although not as full as some soundtracks of recent films I've watched, it gets the job done. That's something I could say about the soundtrack as a whole- it's nothing that's going to impress, but it does do the job it's got to do, and in a comedy like this, that's simply to bring the dialogue.

MENUS: Very basic main menus based on the poster art. There are three seperate menus for the extra features. Neither scene selection nor the main menus are animated.


Commentary: Director Chris Columbus provides the commentary on "Mrs. Doubtfire", and he's done something that I have mixed feelings about here. It seems as if he's taken notes throughout the film and is reading them for the commentary. It's good, because he has all of his material in front of him and has paced out thoughts from the begining to the end. It's not so good because he sounds a little too much like he's reading off his notes. If you prefer a commentary where it feels like someone is naturally reacting to viewing the film again in the commentary, I'm not sure you'll enjoy this commentary. The other thing that isn't positive about this format is because Columbus has quite a few small pauses between notes.

I was a little suprised at the content of this commentary- I thought it was going to mainly focus on the actors and working with Williams, but there is actually a fairly sizeable amount of technical information about the camerawork that I found enjoyable. Of course, there is talk about the concepts and ideas about the characters and working with Williams and the rest of the cast, but there is a nice mixture of filmmaking information and acting & story information. Columbus also mentions a few places where the story was cut. Speaking of cuts, Columbus also mentions his editor, Raja Gosnell, who has also went on to become a director himself in this year's Drew Barrymore film "Never Been Kissed". It's definitely a positive with this disc that when Columbus actually talks about cutting scenes, it seems as if the majority of them are contained on this disc. I'll talk about that later. Columbus also mentions a few things about the reactions and thoughts on and of preview audiences that I found interesting. We also hear Columbus's thoughts on the importance of music in various scenes.

Although, as I said before, Columbus seems to be reading off notes, he does succeed here, in my opinion, in bringing out some interesting and informative detail and although it's not the best commentary I've heard lately, it's certainly a fun couple hours.

Cast Interviews: Some fairly enjoyable interviews with the various cast members. Williams is particularly funny in his interviews. Some behind-the-scenes footage and scenes from the film are set in-between the interviews. An interesting little addition.

Deleted Scenes: Here's an instance where a disc provides some deleted scenes that actually could have found their way into the movie. I agree with Columbus that the movie couldn't be more than a certain length(and I think it's already a little long as is), but there are scenes here that are absolutely hilarious, as Williams(as Mrs. Doubtfire) and the family's neighbor have a few hilarious confrontations while discussing what she should do about her garden. There's also a few additional tries at nanny "personalities" before Williams's character comes up with Mrs. Doubtfire. These are some fairly sizable scenes and they're quite fun to see. There's a lot of comedy here and it's unfortunate that it had to be cut from the film. Some of the scenes here seem to be a little more "mean spirited" humor than the rest of the film, and that's maybe why they were cut. Too bad, since this film could have used a moment or two of mean comedy among all the sweetness. These scenes are letterboxed at 2.35:1.

Ads: The trailer, the teaser trailer and a TV spot are included.

Make-Up Test: A really interesting small segment that takes sort of a "behind-the-scenes" look at not only how the actual character was built, but how the make-up and clothes were chosen. The segement starts off with interviews with Williams and Columbus, then goes into the actual test footage that was shot with Williams trying out the role.

Make-Up Application: This is a second featurette on the make-up, again with Williams talking about the process of building the character, then we actually see the process of people putting make-up and all of the latex and other material on Williams. There's a very interesting commentary by the make-up artist during this sequence that takes us through what is being applied and why and also giving us information about how long it takes to put this all together.

Interview With Chuck Jones: A fairly short interview with animator Chuck Jones that talks about the original animated sequence that starts off the film.
Pencil Test Sequence: The original pencil animation of the opening animated sequence. Very cool stuff.
Final Sequence: The entire final opening animation sequence.

Final Thoughts: I have some mixed feelings about this DVD. The video quality certainly isn't a total loss, but it certainly isn't above average. Sound is fine. I'm glad to see that Fox did carry over the extras from the laserdisc box set, though. If you're a fan of the movie, it's certainly worth a look. I'm glad that Fox still kept the price at $29.99 even though they added extras although, of course, I still wish that Fox would lower their prices to to the levels of Warner or New Line discs.

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