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.