Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire in a face mask in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Technically "Mrs. Doubtfire" isn't a very good movie, the storyline elements are unoriginal, the actual storyline is very slim and coming in at over 2 hours is just too long. But forget that technically "Mrs. Doubtfire" isn't very good because it is still a very entertaining movie and the entertainment comes down to one thing that is Robin Williams. Now not everything which Robin Williams does in "Mrs. Doubtfire" works, some of the jokes feel like padding and the voices often feel like we have seen them before. But it is Williams dressed as an old woman firing of joke after joke which makes "Mrs. Doubtfire" so much fun, so entertaining to the point that the storyline and length no longer matter because it is a laugh fest.

When Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams - Toys) quits his job and throws a lavish birthday party for his son it is all too much for his wife Miranda (Sally Field - Steel Magnolias) who starts divorce proceedings. Struggling with the courts decision to only allow him access to his children for a few hours on a Saturday, Daniel will do anything to be with his children. That is when he learns that Miranda is advertising for a housekeeper and so disguises himself as an old Scottish woman called Mrs. Doubtfire and begins working as a housekeeper. But how long can he keep the pretence up especially when Miranda has an old flame back in her life.

Mara Wilson, Lisa Jakub and Sally Field in Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

As storyline's go it is hard to ignore the fact that "Mrs. Doubtfire" is both slim and unoriginal. What we have is a dad going through divorce who can't bear to be apart from his kids so will do anything, including masquerading as a housekeeper so that he can be close to them. Both elements have been done before in the movies and Dustin Hoffman has done both, the divorce thing in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and the cross dressing in "Tootsie". But in a way the absence of a strong intelligent storyline isn't an issue because "Mrs. Doubtfire" is all about the comedy which Robin Williams brings.

Having said that there are elements of the storyline, the whole element about Daniel and the dinosaur program which feels just wrong. And it is because there are these elements which feel wrong and act like padding that "Mrs. Doubtfire" ends up coming in at over 2 hours which is just too long. It feels as if the team behind the movie realised that the storyline was weak and tried to make more of it but in doing so gave the movie a length problem.

But whilst there are big issues with a slim, unoriginal storyline and scenes which end upcoming across as padding there is no denying that "Mrs. Doubtfire" is a funny movie and a memorable one at that thanks to Robin Williams delivering his anarchic style of comedy. Watching Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire is a joy, from the Scottish accent through to the various mistakes she makes like setting her blouse on fire are just hilarious. And Williams just seems to come alive when ever he is in costume, adlibbing comedy in every single scene or dancing with a hoover to "Dude Looks Like a Lady". The trouble is that when Robin Williams is just being the struggling Daniel the comedy ends up feeling weak. The interview scene with the social worker where we get a montage of funny voices feels forced and so do some of the scenes where he is trying on various guises, although watching Williams dressed as an old woman doing "Matchmaker" from "Fiddler on the Roof" is brilliant.

The thing is that whilst Robin Williams makes "Mrs. Doubtfire" so much fun everyone else fades into the background. Sally Field who is so great at comedy is just underused as his wife Miranda and whilst Pierce Brosnan is amusing he also comes across as quite creepy as Stuart, whether that was intentional or not. It ends up meaning that "Mrs. Doubtfire" is all Robin Williams and when he doesn't make you laugh there is nothing else to fill in the gap.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Mrs. Doubtfire" is a really funny movie it is also technically a very weak movie with a whole barrel load of problems. But for sheer entertainment it works and that is down to Robin Williams who for the most is on fire with his rapier style comedy which is am much fun for younger audiences as it is for older ones.