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Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 family movie wherein Robin Williams, after separating from his wife, crossdresses as an elderly British woman in order to see his kids again. It co-stars Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Lawrence, and Mara Wilson. It was directed by Chris Columbus.
Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a recently out of work actor, struggling to maintain his rocky marriage. One day, after going behind his wife's back and throwing a birthday party for his son, his wife, Miranda (Field), has had enough of his antics and divorces him. Only allowed to see his three kids once a week, Daniel tries to get a new job and shape up his life so that he may receive joint custody. However, he soon learns that Miranda is looking for a nanny to take care of the kids after school. Going to his make up artist brother, Daniel creates a disguise and takes on the persona of Mrs. Doubtfire, an elderly, strict English woman. He is quickly hired by his ex-wife and uses the opportunity is secretly spend time with his children. Things get more complicated, though, as Miranda starts dating an old friend, Stu (Brosnan).
A rare Twelfth Night Adventure in western media. Based on the book Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine, this was one of Robin Williams' biggest hits and finished its theatrical run 2nd behind Home Alone (another Chris Columbus film) as the highest-grossing live-action comedy of all time. The film won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and the Golden Globe for Best Comedy. It is ranked #67 on AFI's list of top 100 funniest films and #40 on Bravo's list of "100 Funniest Movies of All Time."
Shows examples of:
- You Fail Film School Forever: The opening scene features Daniel recording for a cartoon. For the most part in the West voice recording for animation is done before the actual animating (Japan however animates then records). Chris Columbus DID acknowledge this in his commentary and figured it could be taken as Daniel dubbing a foreign cartoon.
- Which doesn't make sense either as the lip-synch in the cartoon (produced by Chuck Jones) is clearly English. Daniel is more than likely just doing post-production looping, either to just do touch ups on certain lines, or maybe Daniel replaced another actor, and is recording over the previous actor's work. Which makes sense from his conversation with the producer who complains that this session is already costing the studio and they're on a deadline.
- Also, you don't typically have a censor board overseeing the actual dubbing/recording of a cartoon... that would waste far too much of their time. (Maybe they were just there to hotbox inside the booth?)
- Becoming the Mask: While Daniel never loses himself in the Mrs. Doubtfire character, she certainly does grow beyond his original plan and takes on a life of her own, and by the end of the film he enjoys being her simply for being her, because she brings out the good in people including Daniel himself.
- Bittersweet Ending: Daniel and Miranda remain divorced, but he is able to get unsupervised visitation rights. This was substituted for the original ending where they do get back together, which was opposed by Chris Columbus, Robin Williams, and Sally Field (all divorcees) who thought would give false hope to children of divorced couples.
- Chekhov's Skill: At "her" interview, Mrs. Doubtfire's resume states that she knows first aid, including the Heimlich Maneuver. This apparently isn't a lie (like the rest of the qualifications clearly are), as Daniel ends up needing to administer the Maneuver to Stuart later on.
- Clark Kenting: Averted. The multi-faceted disguise combined with Daniel/Robin's utterly brilliant performance has been known to make even audience members occasionally forget Mrs. Doubtfire's fictionality.
- The crew had Williams test it out by going into a store in full Doubtfire gear and manner to see if anyone could spot that it was a disguise. Everyone took him as a sweet, if quite tall, old lady.
- Deadpan Snarker: Daniel, even when he's Mrs. Doubtfire.
- Divorce Is Temporary: Defied (see below).
- Edible Bludgeon: Daniel under the guise of Mrs. Doubtfire does not take kindly to Stuart calling him a loser, and pelts him in the back of the head with a lime.
- Fake Brit: Daniel when in his Mrs. Doubtfire status.
- False Soulmates: Daniel and Miranda divorce and never get back together.
- First Father Wins: Subverted, then Double Subverted.
- Genre Blindness: Really? Attempt to attend the same event as two people? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
- To be fair, he tried to get out of the birthday dinner and move the business meeting, but both failed.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: It stars Robin Williams, what did you expect?
Mrs. Doubtfire: Don't fuss with me.
- A lot of snarkery lines cross into this as well.
- Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: The caseworker for the divorce makes a surprise visit to Daniel's apartment to check up on him, but comes while he's still in disguise. Daniel!Doubtfire covers for it by claiming that she's his sister. The caseworker calls his bluff, but Daniel gets around this by going into a room to "get" him; while in the room, where the caseworker can't see him, he loudly holds both sides of the conversation as himself and Mrs. Doubtfire, all while changing out of disguise.
- I Never Said It Was Divorce:
Miranda Hillard: They are very upset with me right now.
- Mrs. Doubtfire back this up by saying she can tell by the way Lydia talked about her dad.
- Latex Perfection: A rare realistic version, thanks to Daniel's makeup artist brother Frank. Behind the scenes, the film very deservingly won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
- Although in real life there's no way Williams could have donned that makeup so quickly (and repeatedly). He actually spent 4 1/2 hours a day having it applied.
- Line-of-Sight Name: The name Doubtfire came from a newspaper headline ("Police Doubt Fire Was Accidental").
- Literal Metaphor
Miranda: How did your husband die?
- Little Black Dress
- My God, What Have I Done?: "Oh no, I've killed the bastard!"
- Never Mess with Granny: "Don't...fuss with me".
- Never Trust a Trailer: This film is good, and it has funny moments. It is not, however, a light wacky romp.
- Nobody Poops: Averted.
- Parenthetical Swearing: "Don't fuss with me."
- Playing Against Type: In-universe example: Daniel, the happy-go-lucky life of the party, has to play a strict, crotchety old disciplinarian.
- Precision S-Strike: When Daniel's mask falls out of the window, lands in the road, and then gets run over by a garbage truck.
- Reality Ensues: When Daniel is finally caught and forced to come before the judge, the judge tells him that if you want to prove yourself a competent, capable parent figure, dressing up like an elderly English nanny and posing as a housekeeper to defy court orders isn't going to help. Daniel did meet the judges demands, but his behavior as Mrs Doubtfire did a lot more damage to his case.
- Right in Front of Me: Daniel complains at work about an extremely boring children's program that's shooting... to the executive who allowed the program to air. When he finds out exactly who he's talking to, Daniel introduces himself as a "former employee". Luckily for him, his boss agrees with the criticism.
- Romantic False Lead: Averted, the wife's new boyfriend (played by Pierce Brosnan) is an actual caring nice guy who wants to be a part of her family, and seems like a much more stable and mature father figure for them. He still gets a somewhat out of place Kick the Dog moment when he badmouths Daniel by the poolside, though.
- Possibly justified though, since Miranda would probably not be very glowing about Daniel in talking about her divorce to Stu, making him feel like Daniel did wrong by her. It's less of a personal attack on Daniel but more of being upset that someone broke Miranda's heart.
- Rule of Funny, Harpo Does Something Funny: Daniel eventually gets the job as nanny using the voice of an elderly British woman after terrifying his ex-wife with a series of comically inept "applications". Yet, when he goes to be disguised as a woman, he then tries out several different looks (which call for quite different voices, including a Cuban woman and a Russian woman) first. This makes no sense and only happens due to Rule of Funny.
- Roger Ebert even chides the film in his review that it stops in its tracks multiple times just to let Robin Williams do voices: five times (the opening scene, the job application, the nanny calls, the makeup chair, and the empty studio scene with the dinosaur models).
- In defense of the scene, Daniel several times makes comments like "Need to go older"... implying that the voices are the result of a character actor not being able to match the conceived character to the image he's being presented with.
- Scylla and Charybdis: Hand-in-hand with the Two-Timer Date.
- Shout-Out: The Show Within a Show Daniel ends up working on as "Mrs. Doubtfire" is pretty much Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with a female host.
- Daniel even states that Mr. Rogers is Mick Jagger compared to the host of the boring children's program.
- Taking the Kids: and the house.
- Terrible Interviewees Montage: Invoked Trope. In order for him to get Miranda's housekeeping job, Daniel changes the telephone number on the classified ad before it's sent to the newspaper, then calls Miranda's number as terrible interviewees before breaking out what would be Mrs. Doubtfire.
- Two-Timer Date
- The Unfair Sex: While Daniel wants to work through their marital troubles, suggesting a vacation and marriage counseling, and is shown to be willing to change and mature in order to please Maranda, by contrast she brushes his suggestions to help their marriage aside and declares it over. Then, in what is likely two months or less in the film's stated timeframe, she's already dating again while Daniel has to struggle and scrape at a low-end job and a small apartment and gets to spend far less time with their children than she does. However, all the characters and to some extent the story itself blame Daniel for the marriage's failure and a word is never said to Maranda.
- There is a moment where Daniel (as Mrs. Doubtfire) asks Miranda why she never explained to her husband why she was unhappy when she tells "Mrs. Doubtfire" about their troubles, possibly setting up a What the Hell, Hero? speech, only for Miranda to brush it off saying that Daniel would never bother to take such things seriously. This scene is played as if the What the Hell, Hero? has thusly been delivered to Daniel... the guy who wanted to get counseling and seriously discuss the problems in their marriage.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Daniel.
- Wild Teen Party: Subverted. Somehow inviting all the toddlers in the neighborhood, renting a petting zoo and a pony for your son doesn't sound very great for a 12 year old boy. Especially to risk your marriage over.
- You Remind Me of X: Mrs. Doubtfire's humor reminds Miranda Hillard of her ex-husband's and for good reason.