Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 family movie wherein Robin Williams, after separating from his wife, crossdresses as an elderly British woman in order to see his kids again. It co-stars Sally Field, Pierce Brosnan, Matthew Lawrence, and Mara Wilson. It was directed by Chris Columbus.Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a recently out of work actor, struggling to maintain his rocky marriage. One day, after going behind his wife's back and throwing a birthday party for his son, his wife, Miranda (Field), has had enough of his antics and divorces him. Only allowed to see his three kids once a week, Daniel tries to get a new job and shape up his life so that he may receive joint custody. However, he soon learns that Miranda is looking for a nanny to take care of the kids after school. Going to his make up artist brother, Daniel creates a disguise and takes on the persona of Mrs. Doubtfire, an elderly, strict Scottish woman. He is quickly hired by his ex-wife and uses the opportunity to secretly spend time with his children. Things get more complicated, though, as Miranda starts dating an old friend, Stu (Brosnan).A rare Twelfth Night Adventure in western media. Based on the book Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine, this was one of Robin Williams' biggest hits and finished its theatrical run 2nd behind Home Alone (another Chris Columbus film) as the highest-grossing live-action comedy of all time. The film won the Academy Award for Best Makeup and the Golden Globe for Best Comedy. It is ranked #67 on AFI's list of top 100 funniest films and #40 on Bravo's list of "100 Funniest Movies of All Time."
Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Or in this case, the PG rating. Supposedly, the scene in Bridges Restaurant where Mrs. Doubtfire says numerous double entendres to Stu was pretty much the main reason the film got a PG-13 rating; otherwise, it might've squeaked by with a PG.
Notably, the UK version has several of the most saucy double entendres removed from this scene in order to make a BBFC PG rating, as the next step up is 12, which is rather restrictive for what is seen as a family comedy.
Becoming the Mask: While Daniel never loses himself in the Mrs. Doubtfire character, she certainly does grow beyond his original plan and takes on a life of her own, and by the end of the film he enjoys being her simply for being her, because she brings out the good in people including Daniel himself.
Bittersweet Ending: Daniel and Miranda remain divorced, but he is able to get unsupervised visitation rights. This was substituted for the original ending where they do get back together, which was opposed by Chris Columbus, Robin Williams, and Sally Field (all divorcees) who thought it would give false hope to children of divorced couples.
Bowdlerise: The Hub's showing of the film takes scissors to everything from snippets of dialog to entire scenes. Dubbing over Frank saying "Bitch"? Perfectly understandable. Cutting the scene when Mrs. Doubtfire asserts her authority and makes the kids do chores because they won't do their homework? Hurts the film and makes the kids feel like props rather than characters. Oh and Miranda can't say "Hell" but "Lotsa luck, Smart Ass" was fine.
Some of the edits likely have more to do with the fact that The Hub is attempting to fit a two and a half hour movie into a two hour timeslot. AMC's edit of film bizarrely mutes Robin Williams saying "damn" but 5-year-old Mara Wilson can say "damn" in the same exact context.
Chekhov's Skill: At "her" interview, Mrs. Doubtfire's resume states that she knows first aid, including the Heimlich Maneuver. This apparently isn't a lie (like the rest of the qualifications clearly are), as Daniel ends up needing to administer the Maneuver to Stuart later on.
Clark Kenting: Averted. The multi-faceted disguise combined with Daniel/Robin's utterly brilliant performance has been known to make even audience members occasionally forget Mrs. Doubtfire's fictionality.
The crew had Williams test it out by going into a store in full Doubtfire gear and manner to see if anyone could spot that it was a disguise. Everyone took him as a sweet, if quite tall, old lady.
Compensating for Something: Mrs. Doubtfire uses this trope regarding Stu's car to mock him, outright stating that men buys big cars to compensate for their small genitals.
Demoted to Extra: In-universe example, early in the movie, Mr. Sprinkles is the star of a children's show. At the end of the movie, he's replaced by Mrs. Doubtfire and is demoted to Mr. Mailman, a minor character.
Lastly, something which likely went over the head over most of the children at the final trial scene is that the judge is implying that Daniel is a Depraved Homosexual, unable to be trusted with his kids.
Not to mention the Bilingual Bonus you get when you know what he says in Yiddish while disguised as an old woman...
Old Woman: I should never buy gribenesnote fried "chicken"(?) skins from a Mohelnote circumciser. A shande indeed... . It's so chewy!
Gone Horribly Right: Daniel does such a good job as Mrs. Doubtfire, that when he himself has shown himself to be a competent parent (thanks to the skills he's learned as Doubtfire), Miranda won't consider letting him watch the kids outside his visitation rights because she and the kids can't bear to let go of Mrs. Doubtfire.
Hoist by His Own Petard: If Daniel hadn't decided to spike Stu's dinner, he wouldn't have had to stop him from choking thus most likely keeping his identity as Mrs. Doubtfire safe.... at least for the time being.
Holding Both Sides of the Conversation: The caseworker for the divorce makes a surprise visit to Daniel's apartment to check up on him, but comes while he's still in disguise. Daniel!Doubtfire covers for it by claiming that she's his sister. The caseworker calls his bluff, but Daniel gets around this by going into a room to "get" him; while in the room, where the caseworker can't see him, he loudly holds both sides of the conversation as himself and Mrs. Doubtfire, all while changing out of disguise.
Hurricane of Puns: When Daniel is changing out of the Mrs. Doubtfire disguise during the social worker's visit.
Daniel: "Oh yeah, it's something I can really sink my teeth into!" *removes false teeth* "It's like I don't have the same face anymore!" *removes mask*
Idiot Ball: Miranda divorced her husband, whom she supposedly was well aware of his skill with voices and fast talking. Yet all these strange, surreal nannies responding to her ads never sets off an internal flag that her husband could be behind them.
Oh Crap: When Miranda tells Mrs. Doubtfire that the court worker told her about an old woman going to Daniel's home, followed by a scary stare and saying "I need to ask you something". You can practically see the horror in Daniel's face. Luckily, it was about Mrs. Doubtfire personal life.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-universe and lampshaded. Daniel's accent for Mrs. Doubtfire is a second-hand, sort of bastardized Scottish accent and occasionally slips into others from the region. Stu, who's actually from the UK where accents are a big part of culture, points this out when he first meets "her". Daniel just barely covers by responding that she moved around a lot in her life.
In one of the more serious moments in the movie, Miranda confides in Mrs. Doubtfire that she's happier when she's not around Daniel. Daniel briefly and subtly drops his Doubtfire accent to say, "Well you never..." before catching himself and continuing the conversation in the Doubtfire accent. Luckily for him, Miranda didn't catch on.
Reality Ensues: When Daniel is finally caught and forced to come before the judge, the judge tells him that if you want to prove yourself a competent, capable parent figure, dressing up like an elderly Scottish nanny and posing as a housekeeper to defy court orders isn't going to help. Daniel did meet the judge's demands, ahead of schedule as he points out, but his behavior as Mrs Doubtfire did far more damage to his case than any of the good he did for it.
Right in Front of Me: Daniel complains at work about an extremely boring children's program that's shooting... to the executive who allowed the program to air. When he finds out exactly who he's talking to, Daniel introduces himself as a "former employee". Luckily for him, his boss agrees with the criticism.
Romantic False Lead: Averted, the wife's new boyfriend (played by Pierce Brosnan) is an actual caring nice guy who wants to be a part of her family, and seems like a much more stable and mature father figure for them. He still gets a somewhat out of place Kick the Dog moment when he badmouths Daniel by the poolside, though.
Possibly justified though, since Miranda would probably not be very glowing about Daniel in talking about her divorce to Stu, making him feel like Daniel did wrong by her. It's less of a personal attack on Daniel but more of being upset that someone broke Miranda's heart. He also appears to be careful about not badmouthing Daniel in front of Miranda or the children, as opposed to Miranda, who does it openly in front of the kids.
Rule of Funny, Harpo Does Something Funny: Daniel eventually gets the job as nanny using the voice of an elderly British woman after terrifying his ex-wife with a series of comically inept "applications". Yet, when he goes to be disguised as a woman, he then tries out several different looks (which call for quite different voices, including a Cuban woman and a Russian woman) first. This makes no sense and only happens due to Rule of Funny.
Roger Ebert even chides the film in his review that it stops in its tracks multiple times just to let Robin Williams do voices: five times (the opening scene, the job application, the nanny calls, the makeup chair, and the empty studio scene with the dinosaur models).
However, most of the scenes are justified — the nanny calls consist of Daniel impersonating various outlandish clients to make sure Miranda will take Mrs. Doubtfire after a string of weirdos, the make-up chair has him trying to match a voice to the make-up he's being given as they try to "create" Mrs. Doubtfire, and the studio scene demonstrates to his boss watching that he is an entertaining and energetic person and gets him a dinner meeting.
Daniel crank calling Miranda was taken from the original novel. However, without that Patented Robin Williams Wackiness (tm), the calls in the book aren't really all that funny. It pretty much boils down to, "I have two girls and a boy." "I don't like girls." Click. Second call, "I have two girls and a boy." "I don't like boys." Click.
The job application one is also semi-justified in that, well, it's what Daniel's character does for a living (or at least wants to do), and he's at an employment agency. He's basically trying to prove his chops as a voice actor. Yes, it might have been written in just to let Williams be funny, but it's supported by the character's entire background.
Technology Marches On: The film's plot would be completely rendered moot today as caller ID would have outed Daniel as the person calling for all the nannies applying, and people don't usually pick up for unlisted numbers anymore.
It likely would have required writing in Daniel searching around for still-functioning payphones, calling from different lines at work, borrowing friends and coworkers' cellphones, etc. So the plot would still work, it would just require a bit more footwork on the character's part.
Terrible Interviewees Montage: Invoked Trope. In order for him to get Miranda's housekeeping job, Daniel changes the telephone number on the classified ad before it's sent to the newspaper, then calls Miranda's number as terrible interviewees before breaking out what would be Mrs. Doubtfire.
Toilet Seat Divorce: We're never really given enough information to think the divorce had solid grounds, but the divorce was important for the plot to happen.
Two-Timer Date: Daniel both has to appear with his family as the nanny while also having a dinner with his boss. He ends up exposing himself to his family in the process.
Wild Teen Party: Subverted. Somehow inviting all the toddlers in the neighborhood, renting a petting zoo and a pony for your son doesn't sound very great for a 12 year old boy. Especially to risk your marriage over.
You Remind Me of X: Mrs. Doubtfire's humor reminds Miranda of her ex-husband's, and for good reason.