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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Chris Columbus
Cast:
Robin Williams, Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Harvey Fierstein, Polly Holliday, Lisa Jakub, Matthew Lawrence, Mara Wilson
Writing Credits:
Anne Fine (novel, "Alias Madame Doubtfire"), Randi Mayem Singer, Leslie Dixon

Tagline:
She will rock your world.

Synopsis:
Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is no ordinary father, so when he learns his ex-wife (Sally Field) needs a housekeeper, he applies for the job. With the perfect wig, a little makeup and a dress for all occasions, he becomes Mrs. Doubtfire, a devoted British nanny who is hired on the spot. Free to be the "woman" he never knew he could be, the disguised Daniel creates a whole new life with his entire family.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$20.468 million on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$219.000 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16X9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 125 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 3/4/2008

Bonus:
• Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes
• “From Man to Mrs. The Evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire” Featurette
• Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
• “Aging Gracefully: A Look Back at Mrs. Doubtfire” Featurette
• “A Conversation with Legendary Animator Chuck Jones” Featurette
• Original Pencil Test of Animation Sequence
• Final Animation Sequence
• Final Animation Sequence with Alternate Backgrounds
• Make-up Tests
• “Make-up Application with Ve Neill” Featurette
• Make-Up Photo Gallery
• “The Improvisation of Mrs. Doubtfire” Clips
• Two Vintage Featurettes
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Poster Gallery
• Publicity Photo Gallery


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Mrs. Doubtfire: Behind-The-Seams Edition (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 6, 2008)

If your parents stick you with a funny name, you'd better develop a sense of humor quickly or you're dead meat. Such was the lesson likely learned by young Albert Einstein - who later changed his last name to "Brooks" - and also by one Chris Columbus. Actually, other than their famous names and their work in comedy films, that's about all those two have in common. Brooks has received massive acclaim from critics and peers for his humor but not much recognition at the box office, whereas Columbus's career has taken the exact opposite path: most critics slam his films but many of them have fared quite nicely with moviegoers.

It's unlikely he'll ever create a comedy that does better than 1990's top hit Home Alone, as that stinker somehow managed to rake in a whopping $285 million. However, 1993's Mrs. Doubtfire came surprisingly close. With its take of $219 million, it trailed only megahit Jurassic Park in the box office race that year. That also makes it Robin Williams' biggest hit, as it narrowly edged out the $217 million Aladdin earned the prior year. (Williams' next most successful live action movie was Good Will Hunting, while Patch Adams was the next biggest hit in which he played the lead.)

Mrs. Doubtfire is a film that I grudgingly find to be watchable and somewhat entertaining. I'm not much of a fan of Williams. After all these years, his shtick has lost much of its appeal for me, and his terrifying shift into all those horrible "feel good" movies just gives me the willies. However, I don't deny that Williams has a tremendous amount of talent, and Mrs. Doubtfire nicely complements Aladdin in that the two probably have best displayed his particular skills.

The main difference between the two films is that Aladdin still would have been a good film without Williams, whereas there's an extremely good chance that Doubtfire would have been simply pathetic in his absence. It's already treading a thin line between funny and sickening, and the loss of Williams' talent would have pushed into the realm of cute and saccharine quite easily.

That would have happened for two reasons: Columbus and costar Sally Field. The less said about Field the better. Admittedly she looked terrific in Doubtfire when one considers that she was nearing 50, but I've always found her to be a cloying and annoying actress. I won't say that she's necessarily bad - it's hard to argue that when she won two Academy Awards in five years - but I will say that she tends to be a grating and unpleasant presence.

I have no idea what kind of presence Columbus brings to the table, but I can view his body of work and see that it doesn't exactly inspire hosannas of praise from me. Like Patch Adams director Tom Shadyac, Columbus specializes in mildly outrageous, moderately funny but ultimately heartwarming little films. When he hits, he hits big, but unfortunately for him, Doubtfire is his only successful movie that doesn't have Home Alone in the title. (He also directed that film's $172 million grossing sequel.) Stepmom and Nine Months are further examples of his work and they show that he needs someone to whom the audience responds as a major comedy presence for his films to prosper. No, he couldn't act, but there's no question that moviegoers loved that obnoxious Macaulay Culkin.)

Mrs. Doubtfire is exactly what I think of when I consider the idea of the sort of film that's supposed to be popular in middle America: bland, saccharine, modestly funny and slightly outrageous at times. Now, I'm not saying this is what folks in the "great American heartland" mainly enjoy, but it does match my stereotypical idea of their kind of fare. It's not a movie I'd see doing well with the hipster crowds.

I suppose that's neither bad nor good, sort of like Mrs. Doubtfire. Yes, I'm tremendously ambivalent about the film. There's so much about it that I dislike, such as Field, their "charming" kids, the cutesy situations and gags, and Williams when he's not being funny; that's when he enters that much-too-earnest mode that makes up 95 percent of his acting these days. Yet I ultimately find the movie to be fairly enjoyable. I'll never be much of a fan of it, and it's the kind of picture that I'm embarrassed to tell friends that I like at all, but it essentially delivers the goods that it promises and does so fairly efficiently. That's faint praise, but faint praise beats no praise at all.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B+

Mrs. Doubtfire appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some real strengths, too many problems marred the presentation.

The image looked reasonably sharp much of the time but suffered from softness during more than a few shots. Usually wide shots were the least defined. Notable edge enhancement led to some of this looseness, and a mix of source flaws appeared. I detected occasional specks, marks and nicks. These weren’t overwhelming but they distracted at times.

On the positive side, colors appeared quite bold and accurate. The movie went with a natural palette that it painted in lively tones. Black levels seemed deep and firm, while shadows were reasonably clear and smooth. Interiors could be a little muddy, but those weren’t overwhelming. I liked a lot of the transfer, but the edge enhancement and print defects made it more average than I’d like.

Mrs. Doubtfire offered a perfectly competent Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. It's a track that seemed more than adequate for a comedy. Dialogue sounded generally rich and natural, although some obviously looped lines often entered the equation. Effects also seemed clear and realistic. The film's score appeared fairly smooth and melodic, and music as a whole was lively and fairly warm.

The front channels displayed some pretty good stereo separation. Dialogue always remained front and center, but a decent number of effects appeared in the right and left channels, and the music used all of these speakers nicely. The surround channels seemed underused and didn't display any audio other than musical fills and very occasional ambient effects. Still, while it's not a great soundtrack, it did what it needed to do, so I thought it was effective.

How did the picture and audio of this “Behind-the-Seams” edition of Doubtfire compare to those of the old 1999 release? In terms of sound, the pair seemed virtually identical. The new DVD added a dedicated LFE channel while the original was 5.0, but the end resulted appeared very similar.

Although the 2008 DVD provided an anamorphic transfer – the old one lacked 16X9 enhancement – I didn’t think it offered substantial visual improvements. I thought it held up a bit better but both suffered from too much edge enhancement and too many source flaws. While I preferred the 2008 DVD, it still had some problems.

The “Behind-the-Seams” package alters the extras found on the original disc. I’ll mark new supplements with an asterisk; if you fail to see a star, that element already appeared on the prior release. In addition, I’ll discuss omissions at the end of the review.

On DVD One, we get removed footage in the *Cutting Room area. This includes 18 “Deleted and Extended Scenes” (32:04) and four “Alternate Scenes” (4:29). (Note that although my asterisk indicates this is a new feature, some of the footage appears on the old disc. I think we get enough extra material to deserve the asterisk, though.)

Most of them are snippets that add to already established concepts. Although they aren't always bits taken from existing scenes, they trod territory that's covered elsewhere, and while many of them are very good and entertaining, this redundancy is probably why they weren't used. One shot I really wish had stayed in adds onto the scene in which Doubtfire spikes some food with hot pepper; it's hilarious and I think it would have maintained the flow of the film well, so I'm not sure why it was cut.

The biggest omission that's covered in these deleted scenes is a running relationship between Doubtfire and a nosy neighbor played by Polly Holliday. In the completed film, Holliday barely exists, so it's good to see all the work she did. The scenes are pretty good, but they clearly were superfluous and were an easy target for removal. The pieces would have worked in the film, but I understand why they went when the picture ran long.

The “Alternate Takes” aren’t all that memorable – except for one. In the “Deleted Scenes”, we get closure between Doubtfire and the bus driver who has a crush on her, as he finally makes a move. One take goes for sweet and touching, whereas the other aims for laughs. I prefer the first one – which is an “Alternate” here - and although this scene was also not really missed in the final cut, it's another that I wish had stayed. The bus driver is such a slightly sad character and we feel bad for him since his romantic inclinations will go unrewarded; I like knowing that he got let down easily.

Over on DVD Two, the material splits into five areas. Production Office gives us three components. *From Man to Mrs. The Evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire runs 26 minutes, 36 seconds as it mixes movie clips, behind the scenes elements and interviews. We hear from director Chris Columbus (from 1993/1994), producers Marsha Garces Williams (1993) and Mark Radcliffe (1993), makeup artist Ve Neill (1993), and actors Robin Williams (1993/1994), Pierce Brosnan (1994), Harvey Fierstein (1994), Matthew Lawrence (1994), Mara Wilson (1993), Sally Field (1993), and Lisa Jakub (1993). “Evolution” looks at the adaptation of the original book and the development of the project and the screenplay, casting and performances, the Doubtfire makeup and other aspects of the character, improvisation, and some dramatic elements of the film.

Across “Evolution”, we get decent glimpse of Doubtfire. However, the absence of recent interviews harms it. Everyone speaks from a perspective so close to the making of the film – indeed, often from the set – that we don’t get any real appraisal of things. This lends the piece a fairly fluffy tone that robs it of the depth I’d prefer. It still includes some good info, but don’t expect a lot of meat.

A *Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery provides shots from the set. We find 88 pictures in all, most of which show Columbus. The focus on the director makes these photos pretty tedious after a while; none of them stand out as memorable to me.

“Production Office” concludes with *Aging Gracefully: A Look Back At Mrs. Doubtfire. This 13-minute and 42-second featurette features new remarks from Columbus and Williams together. They offer general reflections on the shoot of the film as well as thoughts about how it holds up after all these years. They don’t throw out a lot of vital details about the flick, but they include some decent notes. The most interesting part of the piece looks at the pressure to make a sequel and how that would work if ever attempted.

Within the Animation Studio, we mostly get components from the old DVD. A four-minute and 17-second piece offers A Conversation with Legendary Animator Chuck Jones. He talks about the cartoon he created for the film's opening. It's okay, but Jones spends much of his time telling us how inventive and creative Robin Williams is. We know - we get it! Sometimes I wonder if Williams has self-esteem problems and he pays DVD producers to add in all of these laudatory comments from coworkers.

We also get the entire Final Animation Sequence. In the finished film, we only see bits of it, and usually in the background, but here we get to watch the entire five-minute and 14-second film. It's not a classic, but it's fun to watch.

As a twist, we can also check it out with *Alternate Backgrounds. That version runs five minutes, 51 seconds due to the addition of some text from Columbus. We also receive a two-minute and 26-second pencil test for the short. It didn't do much for me, but I won't complain about its inclusion.

Now we move to the Make-Up Department and its three pieces. A four-minute and 10-second segment encapsulates the process used to turn Williams into Doubtfire. Williams introduces the Make-up Application featurette and then main make-up artist Ve Neill narrates it. It's more "nuts and bolts" than most of the stuff here, and it offers a nice glimpse at all the painstaking work that went into his transformation.

One wonderful piece depicts 17 minutes and 53 seconds of various *Make-Up Tests. These are quite entertaining. Some show Williams riffing to the camera, whereas some others have him interact with Field and their kids. I love this kind of raw material and found this stuff to be delightful. (Note that some of this appeared on the original DVD, but the new one includes a lot more footage.)

This area finishes with a *Make-Up Photo Gallery. It presents 22 images of Williams as he goes from man to Doubtfire. We already see this in the featurette, but the shots provide a good step-by-step depiction.

Within Stage A, we find a collection of clips called *The Improvisation of Mrs. Doubtfire. This lets us see different takes shot for seven different scenes. Taken together, “Improvisation” fills 36 minutes, 53 seconds. We often hear about Williams’ skills as an impromptu actor, and this section gives us great look at his on-the-set alterations. We find tons of fun material in this very entertaining compilation.

Called Publicity Department, the final domain presents six elements. An *Original 1993 Featurette runs five minutes, 29 seconds and include remarks from Williams, Columbus, Marsha Garces Williams, Field, Brosnan, Fierstein, Jakub, Wilson, and Lawrence. They give us a basic look at the flick and a few minor reflections. No interesting information appears, but a couple quick moments from the set entertain.

Another vintage piece, *Meet Mrs. Doubtfire goes for five minutes, 22 seconds and features a “chat” between Williams and Mrs. Doubtfire. Those elements amuse, but tons of movie clips make the featurette more of a chore.

Three *Theatrical Trailers appear - two were on the old DVD, but one is new to this set – along with two *TV Spots, which marks a step up from the single television ad on the prior release. Stills show two *Theatrical Posters and 100 shots show up under a *Publicity Photo Gallery. The latter gets most interesting at the end, as it features some fun trick shots of Williams as two characters.

Does this 2008 DVD omit anything from the 1999 version? Yup. The major deletion comes from an absent audio commentary with Columbus. I thought his chat was very informative and interesting, so it’s a real shame that it doesn’t pop up on this disc as well. In addition, the old release included eight minutes of cast interviews.

Although I never will be particularly wild about Mrs. Doubtfire, I must admit it entertains. The movie suffers from a mix of avoidable problems but it delivers enough amusement to satisfy. The DVD features average picture quality, pretty decent audio and a long roster of extras highlighted by some terrific deleted scenes and alternate takes.

Unfortunately, the disc drops the prior release’s informative audio commentary, and though the anamorphic transfer betters the earlier DVD’s non-enhanced image, it still comes with more flaws than I’d like. That makes the “Behind-the-Seams” edition of Doubtfire a tenuous recommendation. If you don’t own the old disc, you’ll prefer this one due to its various improvements, but you’ll miss that audio commentary. If you have the prior version, this one is a passable upgrade, though you’ll need to hold onto the earlier set for its commentary. If only the 2008 DVD included that track, I’d endorse it more happily.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2727 Stars Number of Votes: 11
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main