Mrs. Doubtfire [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (1st June 2008).
The Film

Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence may have popularized the fat-suit comedy, in fact they are also the ones that drove into the ground after producing many comedies with larger than life personas but Robin Williams was really the first to don a fat-suit and create a unique character. In this case an old British Nanny named Mrs. Doubtfire. I guess we can all thank Robin Williams for movies like "The Nutty Professor" (1996), "Big Momma's House" (2000) and "Norbit" (2007)...even typing that title makes me feel ill.

Released in 1993 under the direction of Chris Columbus (one of the 'safest director's this side of Lasse Hallström), and featuring the comedic stylings of Robin Williams, who was at the top of his game at that time. His films where generating healthy box office results and this film would push his star farther with an equally impressive showing. The mix of off beat humor and the story's universal themes of family secured a surefire hit. William's incredible gift of spontaneous improvisation made way for many now classic scenes and made for quite a few memorable lines. I hadn't seen the film since 1993 and even before I popped this disc into my player I found myself spouting lines from the film, a test of how truly incredible Williams is as a comic actor.

Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) is a down on his luck voice over artist that recently lost his job, but it's no big deal to him because it's his son's (Matthew Lawrence) birthday and he decides to throw him a huge party. One that gets out of hand...and is enough to push his wife Miranda (Sally Field) over the edge, these two are clear opposites and Daniel's total disregard has cost him his marriage. As Daniel and Miranda divorce the court awards custody of the kids to Miranda, Daniel only gets a weekend to see them, in an effort to spend more time with his children he decides to take up Miranda's need for a nanny. So he transforms into an old British lady and acquires the job. Hilarity inevitably ensues.

"Mrs. Doubtfire" is what you would call a 'high concept comedy' which means that it's premise is a little unbelievable but features realistic and charming characters that ease an audience's disbelief into thinking that what they are doing is not only achievable (to a degree) but not out of the ordinary. Williams' character Daniel is so hell bent on being with his children that it's not inconceivable to think that he'd go as far to dress like an old British lady just to be with them. If anything this film certainly has charm and a few laughs but is so incredibly cheesy in parts that the sugar coating almost makes my teeth hurt, especially when Columbus cuts to young Mara Wilson who delivers a cutesy performance.

The kids are suitably cast, although not the best actors in the world, they make due with their lines and leave the funny stuff to Williams, who really is the star of the show. His antics as the nanny are funny even 15 years on, the references may have dated but overall his humor is very accessible. I also enjoyed his interaction with his brother played by Harvey Fierstein as well as his many improvised moments throughout the film.

The story is a fairly silly, Miranda's divorce request feels hasty and out of the blue even though some exposition explains their current state it really did feel like a device and these are the areas where the film really falls a bit flat, and even Williams' energy can't really save those scenes. The film also runs a bit long for a light family comedy, at just over two hours the film marginally overstays its welcome and the film's final restaurant scene may leave viewers a bit exhausted. However, it does have charm, it does deliver a few laughs and it's easy to see why this comedy was a box office hit.

Video

Presented in the film's original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio this transfer is in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. For a film that's 15 years old this transfer holds up real well, in fact much better than I was expecting. The transfer is mostly sharp, with a few instances of softness, detail holds up exceptionally well especially in wide shots and also in close-ups, in fact the sharpness is so good at times you can see the flaws in the make-up design in close-ups. Colors are nice and vibrant and contrast is very good, blacks are bold but do have some minor noise amid them, shadow detail is consistently good. The only flaws that I could spot are some very minor instances of specks and dirt, occasional softness as mentioned before and some light grain (which is part of the film stock anyway).

Audio

Four audio tracks are included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, as well as English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround and French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD soundtrack. This comedy is very much dialogue focused and occasionally the score kicks in to heighten emotional moments, that's really it aside from a few crowd bearing scenes likes the restaurant scene at the end and the scene around the swimming pool which uses the surround speakers well to immerse viewers in with background and ambient noise. Otherwise dialogue and music come across clear and without distortion. It's not a dynamic track but it does the trick.
Optional subtitles are included in English and Spanish.

Extras

Fox have included a ton of extras on this release, which is not typical for the studio since many other catalog titles are bare of many of their DVD extras. Perhaps this is a new cornerstone for the studio and future releases will incorporate more of their DVD extras? I guess time will tell, in any case this release includes a healthy amount of deleted scenes, alternate scenes, several featurettes and photo galleries, animation footage, test footage, improvised scene footage, theatrical trailers and bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

The disc's extras are split into several sections the first is Cutting Room which includes:

18 deleted and extended scenes:

- "After Party" runs for 2 minutes 40 seconds, a longer version of Daniel and Miranda's fight after the party.
- "Make-Up Montage" runs for 47 seconds, additional improvised variations on the make-up fitting scene.
- "A Simple Formula" runs for 5 minutes 37 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire meets the neighbor Gloria and gives her a tip for caring for her flowers.
- "Cleaning: Mrs. Doubtfire Style" runs for 35 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire dusts the house in her unique way.
- "Oatmeal Cookies" runs for 37 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire presents the kids with fresh cookies on their return home from school.
- "In the Laundry Room" runs for 1 minute 53 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire encounters some trouble with the washing machine.
- "The Boys Go Shopping" runs for 40 seconds, Daniel, his brother and his gay boyfriend shop for old lady's clothes.
- "Gloria Sprays Her Flowers" runs for 14 seconds, Gloria uses Mrs. Doubtfire's secret formula on her flowers.
- "A Dash" runs for 1 minute 18 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire explains to Gloria why her flowers have all died.
- "Walk Like A Man" runs for 38 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire avoids Mrs. Sellner as she's walking up to the Hillard house.
- "The Dancing Scene" runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds, Miranda tries to teach her kids to dance in preparation for the spring dance.
- "Spelling Bee" runs for 6 minutes, Daniel and Miranda's arguing ruins Lydia's turn at the spelling bee, later Daniel and his daughter share a heart-to-heart.
- "Playing the Same Note" runs for 1 minute 31 seconds, the bus driver asks Mrs. Doubtfire on a date, but learns she's actually a he.
- "The Ladies Room" runs for 51 seconds, Miranda checks up on Mrs. Doubtfire in the restroom.
- "Found and Lost" runs for 1 minute 44 seconds, a woman finds Daniel's bag in the restroom.
- "The Cajun Chef" runs for 1 minute 6 seconds, Mrs. Doubtfire is caught tampering with the food and pretends to me a Cajun chef.
- "Gloria's Surprise" runs for 1 minute 5 seconds, Gloria finds out Daniel is actually Mrs. Doubtfire.
- "Family Fight" runs for 2 minutes 20 seconds, Miranda and Daniel argue some more as Daniel tries to justify his actions.

Next up are 4 alternate scenes that include:

- "Daniel's First Day at Work" runs for 1 minute 49 seconds, basically the same scene as in the film but with slightly different dialogue.
- "The Bodysuit" runs for 1 minute 1 second, Daniel puts on the bodysuit for the first time.
- "The Bus Driver" runs for 1 minute 14 seconds, another version of the scene where the driver asks Mrs. Doubtfire out.
- "The Missing Ingredient" runs for 22 seconds, Gloria chases after a dog for his pee.

The next section is entitled Production Office and includes the following extras:

"From Man to Mrs: The Evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire" this is a 5-part featurette that runs for 26 minutes 37 seconds and covers the following: "Cooking up the Script" which takes us through the scripting process and developing the material, "An Eye for Casting" takes us through the casting process and getting all the talent involved in the film, "Making-up Mrs. Doubtfire" takes us through the intensive make-up process from the development to application, "On Set with Euphegenia" sees the cast commenting on working with Williams in character as well as improvising many scenes. Finally we have "Seriously Funny" which is a final look back at the production, its themes and characters among other things.

Following that is a "Behind-the-Scenes" photo gallery which features 76 images taken during the film's production and includes many candid shots of the cast and crew.

"Aging Gracefully, A Look Back at Mrs. Doubtfire" is a retrospective featurette that runs for 13 minutes 43 seconds as the film's director and star take a look back at the film, how much fun they had making and it recall moments from the production that stuck with them throughout the years.

The third section on this disc's extras is entitled Animation Studio and includes:

"A Conversation with Legendary Animator Chuck Jones" a featurette that runs for 4 minutes 17 seconds. Here we get Jones commenting on the animated sequence that Williams' character is providing voices for in the opening scene of the film. He talks about his classic animation style and what Williams brings to the characters.

Also featured is the "Original pencil test" footage that runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds, and acts as a sort of animatic for the sequence before it's fully animated.

You also get the "Final Animation sequence" footage which runs for 5 minutes 14 seconds, in the film we only get a few moments from the sequence here we get to see the complete sequence.

And also there's the "Final Animation sequence with alternate background" footage that runs for 5 minutes 51 seconds, this version includes backgrounds that are much more in the style of Chuck Jones.

The fourth section is Make-up Department and includes:

"Make-up Application with Ve Neill" a featurette that runs for 4 minutes 10 seconds and briefly takes us through the make-up application process that took around 4 hours to do each morning before filming.

There's also a "Make-up" photo gallery that includes 22 images of the process and various latex appliances.

5 Make-up tests are also featured, these are early footage of Williams in full make-up trying out various lines and facial movements. This footage is particularly interesting as it shows a slight development of the make-up, the footage included are:

- "Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire - A" which runs for 2 minutes 37 seconds.
- "Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire - B" which runs for 3 minutes 45 seconds.
- "Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire - C" which runs for 4 minutes 10 seconds.
- "Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire with Matthew Lawrence, Lisa Jakub and Mara Wilson" which runs for 4 minutes 37 seconds.
- "Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire with Sally Field as Miranda Hillard" which runs for 2 minutes 41 seconds.

The next section of extras is Stage A and includes the following:

7 Alternate Improvised Scenes, much of the film was improvised with Williams given freedom to not only create the character but also create many of the film's most humorous moments and a lot of it was spontaneous. Below are seven scenes that feature several takes each and demonstrates Williams' improvisational skills and ability to instantly make any scene instantly funny or memorable, these scenes included are:

- "Scene 26: Another Applicant" includes 4 takes plus the final scene and runs for 3 minutes 34 seconds.
- "Scene 34HH: A Work in Progress" includes 3 takes and the final scene and runs for 3 minutes 1 second.
- "Scene 78F: Mrs. Catchfire" includes 3 takes and the final scene and runs for 3 minutes 11 seconds.
- "Scene 111B: The Death of Mrs. Doubtfire" includes 5 takes and the final scene and runs for 3 minutes 46 seconds.
- "Scene 131: Daniel's Show" includes 2 takes and the final scene and runs for 8 minutes 53 seconds.
- "Scene 148A: Pitching Mr. Lundy" includes 4 takes and the final scene and runs for 6 minutes 46 seconds.
- "Scene 159B: Girlfriends" includes 4 takes and the final scene and runs for 7 minutes 41 seconds.

The final section of this disc's extras is the Publicity Department and includes the following:

Original 1993 featurette runs for 5 minutes 29 seconds and is the standard EPK style clip that briefly glosses over the film and it's characters.

Next is "Meet Mrs. Doubtfire" a featurette that runs for 5 minutes 22 seconds and includes Williams interviewing Mrs. Doubtfire in yet another promotional clip.

Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer A which runs for 1 minute 7 seconds, theatrical trailer B that runs for 1 minute 59 seconds and theatrical trailer C which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.

Next are TV spot 1 and TV spot 2 which both run for 31 seconds. There's also a theatrical poster gallery which is 1 screen that shows the four posters made for the film's marketing campaign. Finally there's a publicity photo gallery that features a total of 92 images of photos taken for the marketing of the film, many of which are character shots.

Rounding out the extras on this disc are a series of bonus trailers for:

- "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" which runs for 1 minute 52 seconds.
- "The Devil Wears Prada" which runs for 2 minutes 55 seconds.
- "Night at the Museum" which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.
- "Ice Age 2" which runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds.
- "Eragon" which runs for 2 minute 26 seconds.
- "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" which runs for 1 minute 5 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: A+ Overall: B-

 


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