I have such fondness for director Chris Columbus’s “Mrs. Doubtfire.”
I remember watching it over and over, effusively quoting Robin Williams‘s over-the-top exclamations and giggling hysterically at the movie’s comedic conundrums. It’s truly a tour-de-force for Williams, who was given free improvisational reign on the set. His role as irresponsible Daniel, who takes desperate measures by impersonating a female nanny in order to see his kids during his divorce from wife Miranda (played by Sally Field), resulted in the birth of beloved character and the second-highest-grossing film of 1993 (behind “Jurassic Park“). It’s a movie that spreads the schmaltz on thick, sure, but proves surprisingly ahead of its time when it comes to the fallout of divorce and the plights of working moms and perpetual man-boys, alike.
It’s been ages since I’ve watched the film, so — in honor of its 20th anniversary (November 24) — I thought it important to revisit the classic with my sister, for this month’s Sibling Revivalry. Unsurprisingly, she’d never seen the movie (and only knew Williams from his turn in “Hook,” strangely enough) — but, despite her best efforts to pick apart the simplistic storyline, I caught her chuckling. She ended up loving it, and having quite a few things to say about how the film would play if it were set in 2013. Here are my sister’s thoughts on “Mrs. Doubtfire,” 20 years after the movie hit theaters.
The Biggest Laugh
My sister guffawed during Mrs. Doubtfire’s ill-fated cooking scene, when her prosthetic breasts catch fire and dinner is ruined. “It’s hard to cook,” she said. “It’s also probably hard to navigate around big boobs if you’re not used to them. That was a pretty guaranteed combination of humor. Not to mention the fact that he watched Julia Child to prepare, and his Mrs. Doubtfire voice is essentially Julia Child in a vacuum.”
The 411 on Lady Stuff
We’re privy to all manner of humor when it comes to Williams’s man-to-lady transformation, which led me to ask my sister what she thinks most men would find frustrating if they could be a woman for a day. “Heels, makeup, hair,” she deadpanned. “Plucking their eyebrows. Stockings, for sure. I think they’d be shocked at how uncomfortable most of our clothes are — even the stuff that looks comfortable. And just a head’s up related to this movie: Sticking your face in icing will give you tons and tons of zits. Comedic value aside, it’s not a viable facemask. Just FYI.”
And, about that role-reversing scene when Mrs. Doubtfire finds herself on the receiving end of her bus driver’s amorous intentions: “It’s sweet that he tried to play along and be nice to the guy,” my sister said. “But, more realistically, most guys have no idea how to deal with that kind of attention. My advice, as a woman, is just to ignore it. But any guy in that situation would probably just throw punches.”
When Nature Calls, Shoot!
The big reveal to Daniel’s eldest kids Lydia and Chris — during a bathroom break — sparked some interesting conversation. “It would never have gone down like that today,” my sister explained. “Mrs. Doubtfire would’ve gotten shot. If this movie was made now, I feel like a single divorcee mom would totally have a gun in her bedroom and the kids would’ve been like, ‘Get the gun! Shoot the imposter!’ before he had a chance to explain.”
Kids These Days
My sister also had harsh words regarding Lydia and Chris’s reactions (especially the well-known, “He’s a she…she’s a he…half-man, half-woman!” line). “Children are exposed to a lot more, they’re more open-minded these days,” my sister mused. “It’s fairly possible that, if they were in that same situation now, the kids would be like, ‘Oh, perhaps that’s someone undergoing a sex change,’ or some such thing. We’ve come a long way as far as exposing our kids to all manner of people and lifestyles. It’s especially silly in this movie, watching it now, because after the reveal they acted like Mrs. Doubtfire was a criminal or an alien or something. That’s just absurd. It’s just more embedded in our consciousnesses and upbringings now that someone not born a female can still be a female, in their own interpretation. So if I was a kid now? I don’t think I’d be like, ‘Oh cool!’ but I’d be like, ‘Oh, so that’s how that is. So she was born a man. Okay.'”
We all know the infamous scene when Daniel (in the moment, as Mrs. Doubtfire) serves a piping plate of pepper-dusted food to his soon-to-be-ex wife’s suave-yet-smarmy boyfriend Stuart (Pierce Brosnan), who happens to be highly allergic to the stuff. By this point, we’re not just sympathetic — we’d reach into the screen and choke the guy ourselves, if we had the power. My sister, of course, had a much different reaction. “Who orders jambalaya at a fine dining restaurant that is clearly only serving Italian food?” she exclaimed. “And what kind of jambalaya gets made without pepper in it already? This is the least believable part of a completely insane ending,” she yelled. “This is going to be difficult for me to get past!”
The Scene Stealer That Almost Was
My sister wholly agreed that Mara Wilson, as Daniel’s youngest child Natalie, was completely adorable and lit up every moment she appeared on screen. But, when I told her that her beloved “Gossip Girl” actress, Blake Lively, was in the running for the part (which would’ve been her first big acting break), she gave pause. “No way!” she exclaimed. “That would’ve been fun! Mara was really cute though, I liked her a lot. I don’t know what Blake looked like when she was a little kid, but I just imagine this super sexy, tall, athletic five-year-old sauntering in and trying to affect adorable against little Mara, and it makes sense that she got beat by the cute. Blake Lively is not cute, Blake Lively is Serena van der Woodsen. I think it worked out serendipitously, in this case.”
from The Moviefone Blog http://news.moviefone.com/2013/11/22/sibling-revivalry-mrs-doubtfire/