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Film / Mrs. Doubtfire

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Lydia: Why can't you and Mom just pretend to be happy?
Daniel: We probably could.
Lydia: And we'd still be a family.
Daniel: Yeah, we would be, but we'd be a pretend family, you know? It wouldn't be real.

Mrs. Doubtfire is a 1993 comedy-drama directed by Chris Columbus and starring Robin Williams, about a man who 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.

Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a newly unemployed San Francisco-based voice actor in a rocky marriage. One day, after going behind his wife's back and throwing a wild and expensive birthday party for their son, resulting in their house being trashed, his wife, Miranda (Field), is finally tired of his antics and asks for a divorce. Only allowed to see their three children once a week, Daniel tries to get a new job and shape up his life so that he may receive joint custody. He discovers that Miranda is looking for a nanny to take care of the kids after school. She won't allow him to babysit them, so with the aid of his make-up artist brother, Daniel disguises himself as Mrs. Euphegenia Doubtfire, an elderly, matronly 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), and Daniel finds that his family can't bear to part with Mrs. Doubtfire.

The film's story is a rare Twelfth Night Adventure in western media. Based on the book Madame Doubtfirenote  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. It was also the last pure comedy (as in, not a dramedy) to win the Golden Globe for Best Comedy until 2009's The Hangover.

A sequel was announced, but in the wake of Robin Williams' death in August 2014, this now seems unlikely. A stage musical based on the film, with music by Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, opened on Broadway on December 5, 2021.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acting for Two: An In-Universe example occurs in the opening sequence. When recording lines for a cartoon, Daniel is doing the voices for both present characters.
  • Actor Allusion:
  • Adaptational Location Change: The book was set in England while the movie relocates the action to San Francisco. Most of the characters are Americanized as a result, but coincidentally, Mrs. Doubtfire herself is British (though she comes from Scotland) and so is Stu (He is played by Pearce Brosnan).
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the novel, Daniel and Miranda were a lot meaner to the point in which Daniel often fantasized about killing her in front of the kids.
  • Adaptation Title Change: The movie is based on the British novel Madame Doubtfire (known as Alias Madame Doubtfire in America).
  • Adaptation Name Change: The Hilliards of the novel became the Hillards of the movie.
  • An Aesop: The moral is that sometimes divorce happens and is necessary, and it isn't the end of the family. Daniel and Miranda are presented as having valid reasons to divorce because they've grown into different people than they were before and Miranda doesn't love Daniel as much as she once did, but both still clearly love their kids. The ending focuses on Mrs. Doubtfire addressing a child that wrote to her about their parents getting divorced, and she explains that sometimes these things just happen with married couples, and it may be for the best for them so they can grow to be better people apart and better parents, and they may or may not get back together eventually. The same scene also has Mrs Doubtfire say that non-traditional families are just as valid as traditional ones and it's the love that makes a family. Nothing else.
  • All Work vs. All Play: Miranda and Daniel. This is what prompts their divorce.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: When Daniel tells Mr. Lundy about bumping into his old girlfriend at the bathroom:
    Lundy: Hey, does your girlfriend have a girlfriend?
    Daniel: Hey, it's the '90s.
    Lundy: No, I mean, does she have a lady friend for me?
  • Amicable Exes: The film is in a sense all about how Daniel and Miranda learn to be this and by the end, it's made pretty clear that in spite of everything, they still care very much for each other.
  • Artistic License: The portrayal of the Mrs. Doubtfire makeup zig-zags this. It's a realistic take on Latex Perfection done by makeup artist characters, and the broad process we're shown of its creation is legit. However, makeup prosthetics are often in multiple pieces to give the face more mobility, require time to apply and wouldn't go on and off like a Halloween mask in the way the makeup is shown to work in the film, and indeed, the real makeup Robin Williams wore was more complex than the single piece used for the removed prosthetic mask prop in the film. However, the comedic and dramatic tension of the story required Daniel to have a costume that could be quickly put on and removed, so in-story, it's simplified to a rubber mask produced by professional makeup artists.
  • Artistic License Film Production: At the beginning of the film, Daniel is working as a voice actor, watching a fully animated clip and trying to lip sync his dialogue to it. Chris Columbus even points out in the commentary that in most western animation, all voice acting is completed before anything is drawn (save for ADR, which usually takes care of grunts, groans or lines that were thought up after the main voicing session was complete), but doing it this way made more sense to the plot. It could not be taken as Daniel dubbing a foreign cartoon, either, since the lip-sync in the cartoon (produced by Chuck Jones) is clearly English. Daniel is more than likely just doing post-production looping, either to just do touch ups on certain lines, or maybe Daniel replaced another actor, invoked and is recording over the previous actor's work. Which makes sense from his conversation with the producer who complains that this session is already costing the studio and they're on a deadline. Also, you don't typically have a censor board overseeing the actual dubbing/recording of a cartoon... that would waste far too much of their time. (Maybe they were just there to hotbox inside the booth?)
  • Artistic License History: Miranda, an interior decorator, recommends a "17th century grand piano" for Stuart's bed and breakfast. Aside from the fact that the first piano wasn't made until 1720 (whereas the term "17th century" refers to the 1600s) the grand piano as we know it today wasn't invented until the later years of the 19th century. The harpsichord, an earlier keyboard instrument, did exist in the 1600s; however, the strings in a harpsichord are plucked, rather than struck by hammers (as in a piano), which gives it a quite different sound.
  • Artistic License Medicine: In the restaurant scene, Stuart has an allergic reaction to the pepper in his food, and Mrs. Doubtfire saves him by performing the Heimlich maneuver. A severe allergic reaction can cause the throat to swell, occluding the airway, and would not be helped by the Heimlich maneuver (which works to remove a forcibly expel a foreign object lodged in the throat); to treat the allergic reaction in reality, Stuart would need an epinephrine injection.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: The bus driver seems to think so, regarding Mrs. Doubtfire. Even the hairy legs didn't seem to deter him.
  • 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. The scene where the kids find out Mrs. Doubtfire's identity also calls for a PG-13 rating.
    • 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.
    • This also applies to his parenting and housekeeping. At first Daniel has to pretend to be the ideal babysitter and housekeeper as Mrs. Doubtfire in order to stay employed by Miranda, by doing things like make the kids do homework and chores before they can goof off (something he would let them do as Daniel), and keep the house clean and make delicious meals to make their mom happy. Eventually these skills become so second-nature that even after the kids learn who he is, he keeps encouraging them to balance fun with responsibilities, and he cooks and keeps house at his own place as well as Miranda's - which ironically is what starts causing problems when Miranda believes that he is responsible enough to see the kids more, but doesn't want to lose Mrs Doubtfire completely.
  • Big "NO!": Daniel yells "No!" when he sees a truck running over his mask on the street below him.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break: Happens with two Hillard birthdays within the film...
    • Early on in the film, Daniel Hillard throws a big party for his son Chris's twelfth birthday, despite Miranda saying Chris can't have a party due to his bad grades. The party ends up becoming a wild mess, with farm animals roaming around thanks to a traveling petting zoo, and loud music leading to the police coming to respond to a noise ordinance violation. Their neighbor Gloria calls Miranda to come home from work early, leading to the party ending early and Daniel and Miranda getting into a big fight over it, leading to her wanting a divorce, setting the film's plot underway.
    • Later on, it's Miranda's birthday, and she's invited her kids, her new boyfriend Stu, and their housekeeper Mrs. Doubtfire (still unbeknownst to Miranda that she's actually her ex-husband Daniel Disguised in Drag). As a prank, Mrs. Doubtfire laces Stu's jambalaya dish with the pepper he's allergic to. But while seeing Stu choking from the pepper, Mrs. Doubtfire has a change of heart and performs the Heimlich maneuver on Stu, dislodging the piece of tainted shrimp from Stu's throat and saving him... but gets his Latex Perfection mask as part of his "Doubtfire" disguise dislodged. Miranda is absolutely horrified by this revelation that she gets very angry and upset and grabs the kids and leaves the restaurant in a fury.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Daniel and Miranda remain divorced, but the two of them are on much better terms with each other, and Daniel becomes the babysitter for their kids and is allowed to see them anytime he wants and has a thriving new career with Mrs Doubtfire becoming extremely popular. 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 and wanted to show that non-traditional families are just as valid.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The main couple both have valid reasons to divorce the other; Miranda is frustrated by Daniel's chronic lack of work and carefree attitude, while Daniel is angered by her uptight nature and tendency to put her job first.
    • In the climax, after Daniel is unmasked and given stricter visitation rights, he berates Miranda for not saying anything during the trial; while the Judge made the valid point that to an outsider, dressing up as an elderly Scottish woman would make him look like he's insane, Miranda knows full well Daniel would never do anything to hurt their children. And yes, while she was angry at Daniel for his deception, that doesn't justify her keeping her mouth shut and refusing to defend Daniel.
  • 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 which includes commercials. AMC's edit of the film bizarrely mutes Robin Williams saying "damn", but 5-year-old Mara Wilson can say "damn" in the same exact context.
  • Brick Joke: Frank is teased as one of Mrs. Doubtfire's future guests.
  • Bumbling Dad: Daniel at the start, despite his love for his children, has no idea how to take care of them like a responsible parent, which is ultimately what destroys his marriage. Having to learn various housekeeping lessons just to maintain his disguise as Mrs. Doubtfire allows him to become a better parent.
  • Camp Gay: Daniel's brother (played by Harvey Fierstein, no less) and his partner.
  • Caretaking is Feminine: Invoked. When recently-divorced Miranda Hillard interviews for a nanny to watch her three children while she's at work, there's not a single male in the group of prospects... as far as she knows. Subverted in that she ends up hiring their father, who fools her by disguising himself as a matronly Englishwoman in order to spend time with his kids.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Stu's pepper allergy, which Daniel later tries to exploit in a prank to humiliate Stu in a fit a petty jealousy. Daniel, in the guise of Mrs. Doubtfire, immediately changes his tune after it turns out Stu's allergy is potentially fatal and saves him but ends up outing his true identity to everyone else in the process.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • At "her" interview, Mrs. Doubtfire's resumé 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. This is also how Daniel gets caught by Miranda, because the latex mask peels away as he's doing the Heimlich Maneuver.
    • Daniel's ability to "do voices" and impressions help him fool Miranda and pull off Mrs. Doubtfire, as well as impressing Mr. Lundy enough to give Daniel his own edutainment show.
  • Child Hater: Stu is revealed to have originally been one before spending time with Miranda's kids, and warming up to them. He admits to his one friend that, he adores Miranda's kids, and, now that he's nearing 40 years old, he'd like to settle down, and embrace the role of a surrogate parent.
  • 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.
  • Coincidental Broadcast:
    • Just before being introduced to Mrs. Doubtfire (who is actually their father under a heavy make-up), the children are watching a horror movie where someone's face is deformed.
    • At the end of the film, when Daniel comes to take the children for the afternoon, the TV is on and it airs Mrs. Doubtfire's show. In this program, Mrs. Doubtfire answers a letter from a young girl who's concerned about her parents' recent divorce and the future of their family.
  • Compensating for Something: Mrs. Doubtfire uses this trope regarding Stu's car to mock him, outright stating that men buy big cars to compensate for their small genitals.
  • Contrived Coincidence: It's very convenient for Daniel that his brother happens to be a makeup artist.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Daniel over Stuart and Miranda. Starts off as Petty Jealousy Guy but definitely becomes crazy when he spikes his food with pepper (which Stuart is allergic to).
  • Cultural Translation: In the Latin American dub, Mrs. Doubtfire is from Spain, not Britain. Stu finds her accent strange because his company has an office in Madrid and visits often, and she drinks chocolate with cinnamon instead of tea with sugar.
  • Custody Battle: When Miranda gets a divorce from Daniel, she gets primary custody while he can only see their children once a week. Daniel disguises himself as "Mrs. Doubtfire" and gets hired as Miranda's nanny so he can spend more time with the kids while pursuing joint custody. When his ruse is exposed, the judge limits his visitation rights even more. Eventually, Miranda realizes that she and the kids were happier when Daniel was more involved in the family and agrees to joint custody.
  • Dads Can't Cook: Initially played straight with Daniel. He has to order cheap Chinese food for his kids' first Saturday visit with him, and with his attempt to cook dinner on his first day as Mrs. Doubtfire going so hysterically wrong that he has to order takeout food from an expensive restaurant. But finally Subverted, because he manages to teach himself proper cooking through televisions and books, becoming better as he goes on and is able to incorporate this skill into his role as a father.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In the ending, the judge says that Daniel's final argument "seemed" convincing, then says that it's simply a good display of acting, showing that he doesn't buy it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Daniel, even when he's Mrs. Doubtfire. He is played by Robin Williams, after all.
  • Death Glare: Stu whips out his after Daniel (in disguise) throws a lime into the back of his head after Stu badmouthed him from afar. Luckily "Mrs. Doubtfire" is able to pin it on "some angry member of the kitchen staff" and so Stu is none the wiser.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • In-universe example. Early in the movie, Mr. Sprinkles is the painfully boring star of a failing children's show. At the end of the movie, he's replaced by Mrs. Doubtfire and is demoted to her mailman.
    • Daniel imposes this on himself, quitting as a voice actor only to come back as a gofer at the studio.
  • Description Cut: Early in the film, Daniel's brother is trying to console him about his impending divorce, but Daniel assures him that it's just a temporary thing and will soon blow over. Cut to Daniel and his wife standing in court listening to a judge discuss custody arrangements.
  • Deus ex Machina: It's a good thing Daniel had an entire vanilla cake in his fridge so he could plant his face on it and pass it off as facial cream! If not, the movie would've been over in half an hour.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Daniel's plan. He goes ahead with it despite the potential consequences for himself of violating a court order that the judge was going to review after three months anyway. It didn't take Lydia and Chris long to rumble him and it was surely only a matter of time before Miranda did as well. Nor does he consider the possible psychological impact on his children (especially Natalie) of discovering their beloved elderly nanny is really their father in drag.
  • Doting Parent: Daniel absolutely adores his children, and the reason he took on the Mrs. Doubtfire guise is because he couldn't bear being apart from them after the divorce. The problem he has at the start is that this adoration isn't balanced out by responsibility, leading him to go too far in indulging them.
  • Double-Meaning Title: Refers to the alter ego Daniel takes on to have more time with his kids. How he comes about it is reading a bit in a newspaper saying: "Police doubt fire was accidental", figuratively expressing how he not only intends to insert himself back into his kids' lives full-time (the figurative fire is not accidental there), but how the chaos that comes about is not what he intended (figurative fire there would be accidental). There's also the accidental fire that's set on Daniel when he's trying to cook too.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked in the scene when Mrs. Doubtfire first meets Miranda and the kids. Miranda begins to diss Daniel, and Mrs. Doubtfire tells Miranda that it's appropriate to send the kids out of the room before verbally bashing their father. Miranda tries to make a joke: "If I did that, I might never see them again." She immediately apologizes after Mrs. Doubtfire's stern look and lack of laughter from the kids.
  • Edible Bludgeon: Daniel under the guise of Mrs. Doubtfire does not take kindly to Stuart calling him a loser, and pelts him in the back of the head with a lime.
    Mrs. Doubtfire: Oh, sir! I saw it! Some angry member of the kitchen staff! Did you not tip them? Oh, the terrorists! They ran that way! It was a run-by fruiting! I'll get them, sir! Don't worry!
  • Elder Abuse: Daniel's Ms. Doubtfire disguise is so convincing that a random thief attempts to snatch "her" purse while crossing the road, only to be scared shitless by this seemingly elderly woman shouting at him in an angry man's voice.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Daniel quitting a paid voice-over gig over its depiction of smoking tells us everything we need to know about him going forward: he's great at character acting, he does what he feels is the right thing no matter what, and he goes ahead with it even if it's not the wisest choice for him to make.
  • False Soulmates: Daniel and Miranda divorce and never get back together.
  • Fat Suit: Really, the only way Daniel (Robin Williams) could appear as "Mrs Doubtfire" around his kids was to utilize this with sort of (heavy) makeup. Given that, anything that changed his appearance on a large enough scale would have worked; the fact that "Mrs Doubtfire" appeared to be an elderly, overweight, nanny was rather incidental to the behavior....
  • Fell Asleep Crying: Miranda says that when she was married, she was so unhappy with her married life that she would cry herself to sleep.
  • First Father Wins: Double Subverted, Daniel gets divorced, but he still is the preferred father in the eyes of the kids.
  • Flipping the Bird: After Stu brings Miranda home, he waves at Mrs. Doubtfire, and she waves back... then gives him the finger when he turns his back.
  • A Fool for a Client: Daniel, at his second custody hearing. It all comes tumbling down.
  • Foreshadowing: Funny how Daniel (as Mrs. Doubtfire) suggests reading Stuart Little to Natalie and comes to think so little of Stuart Dunmeyer later.
  • Games of the Elderly: Daniel, dressed as the titular character, learns his family and a friend will be going to the same restaurant on the same date on which he is due to have a meeting with an executive at the studio for which he works. He attempts to get out of it by saying "she" (Mrs Doubtfire) has bingo on that night and it is her turn to pull the balls.
  • Gender-Concealing Voice: Daniel Hillard softens his voice and uses a British accent to disguise himself as elderly Mrs. Doubtfire. Justified since Daniel is a professional voice actor and elderly women tend to have lower registers in general.
  • Genre Blindness: Really? Attempt to attend the same event as two people? What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • Daniel does such a good job as Mrs. Doubtfire, that when he himself has shown 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.
    • Furthermore, Daniel does such a good acting job as Mrs. Doubtfire that, when the scheme is exposed and he has to make an impassioned defense in front of the judge, the judge sees it as just another incredible acting job.
    • Daniel's backstory he creates for Mrs. Doubtfire has her basically have no personal life with her husband being dead her former job having no further need of her and any other remaining ties to her life being in Scotland, presumably so Miranda won't be able to look too close into her and find out Mrs. Doubtfire isn't real. But this means that when Daniel really really needs a good excuse for Mrs. Doubtfire to be busy one night on Miranda's birthday (so he can go to the dinner with his boss instead) he can't come up with anything more important than Bingo Night, and has to reluctantly attempt both meetings which eventually exposes him.
  • Good Is Not Soft: As Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel acts like a sweet old lady. But she makes it clear to Daniel's children that she is not afraid to discipline them if they act out of line.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: Sorry kids, but sometimes it really is best for everybody involved for your parents to get (and remain) divorced. People who are too different from one another simply can't function together, and need to be apart in order to be the parents that you need in your life. The original script actually did end with Daniel and Miranda getting back together, but Chris Columbus, Sally Field, and Robin Williams, who'd all been divorced, worried it would give children of divorced parents unreasonable hope and successfully got it changed.
  • Heel Realization: After Daniel jokes about Miranda contracting dysentery and Chris's overly graphic description of the disease scares Natalie, Daniel realizes that he shouldn't badmouth Miranda while around the children. Later, in his Mrs. Doubtfire persona, Daniel gently chides Miranda when she badmouths him in front of the children.
  • High Heel Hurt: Daniel complains about the high heels he's wearing while walking home from his first day as Mrs. Doubtfire.
    Mrs. Doubtfire: If I find the misogynistic bastard that invented heels, I'll kill him.
  • 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.
  • Hollywood California: Set in San Fransisco.
  • Honking Arriving Car: Following the divorce, when Daniel has his kids over for a Chinese food dinner at his apartment, Miranda pulls up outside in her car an hour early, and she honks the horn. All the kids immediately know it's their mother and are about to get up to leave, but Daniel insist they sit and stay, forcing Miranda to come up to the apartment.
    Daniel: You don't have to run off when she honks the horn. C'mon, you're on my time now.
  • 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 Daniel, 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 ex-husband could be behind them. She also apparently didn't look at the add she put out after it was printed as she never realizes the phone number is wrong.
  • Idiotic Partner Confession: Chris does it after Daniel expresses his hope that Miranda has contracted Amoebic Dysentery.
    Natalie: What's Amoebic Dysentery?
    Chris: It's some kind of infection in your tummy where you get diarrhea forever -
    Natalie: Diarrhea forever?
    Chris: - and your body dries up, and you die.
    Natalie: You die?
    Daniel: You don't have to be so graphic with her!
    Chris: It's true! I read about it in a science book!
    Natalie: [to Daniel] Why would you want Mommy to die?
  • I Meant to Do That: Done successfully by Daniel at the end of the movie. When he realizes that he accidentally sat down at his boss' table while dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire, he tells his boss that "Mrs. Doubtfire" is his idea for a new children's show character. It works so well that "she" ends up getting her own TV show.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    Miranda Hillard: They are very upset with me right now.
    Mrs. Doubtfire: Probably the divorce.
    Miranda Hillard: How did you know?
  • Irrational Hatred: Subverted, but Miranda at first seemingly absolutely hates Daniel to a point she refuses to let him see their kids and is outraged at finding out both her seemingly-hated husband and Mrs. Doubtfire are one and the same, but then Miranda has a Jerkass Realization and deep down she never stopped loving Daniel.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The judge, although he only comes across as a jerkass from Daniel's point of view. In actual fact, Daniel's lucky that he didn't end up losing his visitation rights completely and/or having criminal charges filed against him for his actions; deliberate and wilful violation of a custody agreement is not something many judges take as lightly as this one did.
  • Jerkass Realization:
    • Daniel has one when, as Mrs. Doubtfire, Miranda tells "her" that her marriage was bringing her to tears.
    • Miranda has one after acknowledging how much Daniel cared and loved their kids, how she actually deep down still loved Daniel and never hated him and how she and them miss him and his Mrs. Doubtfire personality.
    • This is one of Miranda's motives for the divorce. As she admits to Mrs. Doubtfire later, the stress of her failing marriage and having to be both the strict parent and the sole breadwinner was turning into a miserable person that couldn't be the mother her children deserved.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Even though Miranda refuses to let him babysit the children at first, she loves Daniel deeply to the point where she arranges him to have unsupervised visitation rights with their children.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Probably Stu, judging by his friend's shock that he intends to stick around with Miranda long-term.
  • Latex Perfection: A rare realistic version, thanks to Daniel's makeup artist brother Frank. Behind the scenes, the film very deservingly won the Academy Award for Best Makeup.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At the end of the film, Daniel comes to take the children for the afternoon, but regards Miranda somberly, and is too stricken to wait inside the house for the kids. The closing monologue is Mrs. Doubtfire's response to a letter from a young girl who's concerned about her parents' recent divorce and the future of their family. It's heard over scenes of the Daniel and kids leaving Miranda behind and driving into the distance.
  • Lethal Chef: Daniel starts out as one, even setting himself on fire trying to salvage a dinner he's already cooked beyond saving. Naturally though with a few self-help courses and a lot of determination, he gets a lot better at it.
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: The name Doubtfire came from a newspaper headline ("Police Doubt Fire Was Accidental").
  • Literal Metaphor:
    Miranda: How did your husband die?
    Mrs. Doubtfire: He was quite fond of the drink. It was the drink that killed him.
    Miranda: How awful, he was an alcoholic?
    Mrs. Doubtfire: No, he was hit by a Guinness truck, so it was quite literally the drink that killed him.
  • Makeover Fairy: Daniel's brother, Frank, and his partner, Jack, who create the Mrs. Doubtfire disguise.
  • Manchild: Daniel is definitely this, if the out-of-control birthday party is any evidence to go by. Unfortunately for him, it's this immaturity and lack of responsibility that costs him his marriage, and in Miranda's own words he "never took anything seriously". It's only after he becomes Mrs. Doubtfire that he begins to dial back these tendencies, but he is still very much a happy-go-lucky and fun-loving guy when he needs to be.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Gender-inverted and deconstructed. Miranda initially fell for Daniel because he was a wacky and free-spirited man amidst her stuffy office life. Unfortunately, while such behavior was charming while they were dating, the actual charm wore off after a few years into their marriage, not to mention the fact that Daniel's childish personality didn't lend itself to responsible parenting despite his love for his children.
  • Maybe Ever After: Daniel and Miranda don't get back together in the end of the movie, but Daniel's time as Mrs. Doubtfire serves to ground him, reining in some of the excessive tendencies that drove them apart in the first place. Indeed, Mrs. Doubtfire's closing monologue (which Miranda watches) states that sometimes divorced parents do get back together...and sometimes they don't. The question of whether their marriage is salvageable is left ambiguous, and far less important than the fact that they've reached a happy medium with their children.
  • Mean Boss: Daniel's boss Tony in the shipping department, though he's not exactly and not necessarily much of a grumpy mean old enemy/villain depending on your view.
  • Men Can't Keep House: Initially played straight with Daniel. His new apartment is a complete pigsty during his first couple weeks there (Which Miranda and Lydia are not subtle about). He also is a Lethal Chef, having to order cheap Chinese food for his kids first Saturday visit with him, and with his attempt to cook dinner on his first day as Mrs. Doubtfire going so hysterically wrong that he has to order takeout food from an expensive restaurant. But he manages to teach himself proper housekeeping and cooking through televisions and books, becoming better as he goes on and is able to incorporate these skills into his role as a father.
  • Mugging the Monster: A would-be mugger tries to steal Mrs Doubtfire's purse. Mrs Doubtfire fights him off, yelling at the man in Daniel's normal voice (which scares the crap out of the snatcher and some bystanders), then goes over to Mrs. Doubtfire's voice. "Broke my bag, the bastard!"
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • When Mrs. Doubtfire realizes that Stu is choking from the shrimp with the cayenne pepper, she says "Oh no, I killed the bastard!" and decides to use the Heimlich maneuver on him.
    • Miranda basically has one at the court case when Daniel is sentenced to psychiatric evaluation and increasingly restricted contact with the children despite his heartfelt speech, as she recognizes that he isn't dangerous to the children even if she's unhappy with his deception.
  • Never Mess with Granny: "Don't...fuss with me."
  • Never Trust a Trailer: This film is good, and it has funny moments. It is not, however, a light wacky romp.
  • Nice Guy: Miranda's new boyfriend Stu is shown to be a polite and good-natured person who adores her kids.
  • No Antagonist: There are no villains or even characters we're meant to hate. Daniel and Miranda are both flawed but sympathetic and her boyfriend Stu, who would normally fit the role of bad guy, is presented as a perfectly nice and caring person who sincerely really likes the kids. The judge and officers of the court are also presented as being reasonable and well-meaning even when they rule against Daniel, although that doesn't stop him from describing what the judge said as "hateful".
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. Daniel peeing standing up in the Mrs. Doubtfire disguise is how his cover is blown to Chris and Lydia.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: In Universe: After the fruiting incident at the pool, Daniel with a few drinks in him doesn't even bother to disguise his voice when he tells Stu's friend "What are you looking at?".
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When Daniel realizes that his mask was ran over by a truck. "Oh, shit," indeed.
    • Daniel screams in horror when his realizes that his fake breasts are on fire while he's cooking.
    • 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 "Mrs. Doubtfire..." in a seemingly accusatory tone. You can practically see the horror in Daniel's face. Luckily, it was about Mrs. Doubtfire's personal life.
    • When a half-drunk Daniel accidentally sits at Lundy's table in his Doubtfire garb:
      Lundy: ...Daniel??
      Daniel: Yeah?
      Lundy: Why in God's name are you dressed like a woman?!
      Daniel: [quietly] ...Oh, damn.
    • Daniel's utterly shocked when he realizes that he inadvertently caused Stu to choke on the shrimp with the cayenne pepper.
    • Miranda when Daniel's true identity is exposed after he rescues Stu.
  • One Last Smoke: At the beginning of the movie, Daniel is making voices for a cartoon where a cat who's about to eat a bird decides to give his "snack" a cigarette. The bird accepts the offer.
  • 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.
    • Daniel keeps forgetting himself during his meeting with Mrs. Sellner:
      Mrs. Doubtfire: (masculine voice) Mrs... (Doubtfire's voice) ...Sellner!
    • And in the same scene:
      Mrs. Sellner: Well, I would love a cup of English tea.
      Daniel: (Mrs. Doubtfire's voice) Oooooooooh... (natural voice) wouldn't we, now?
  • Opposites Attract: Defied and Deconstructed with Daniel and Miranda. As Miranda tells "Mrs. Doubtfire," she fell for Daniel because he was so funny and carefree, unlike all the stuffy people she worked with in the corporate office, but then "after a few years it stopped being funny." Then, of course, the film gives us plenty of examples of how hard it is to build a life and raise a family with someone with such such polar opposite values in the long run.
    Miranda: We're too different, Daniel. We don't have anything in common!
    Daniel: Sure we do! We love each other!
    Miranda: ...
    Daniel: We love each other... don't we?
  • Parenthetical Swearing: "Don't fuss with me."
  • Pet the Dog: When Mrs. Doubtfire ends up getting her own TV show to replace the boring Mr. Sprinkles, the station is loyal enough to the latter (who'd been on the air for twenty-five years) to keep him on the new program as her mailman, who appears in every episode. Mr. Sprinkles himself also seems happier with the arrangement.
  • Playboy Has a Daughter: A variation. While Stu wasn't necessarily a womanizer, he definitely has a playboy lifestyle of expensive cars and country clubs. When he restarts his relationship with Miranda, he takes an immediate liking to her three kids, especially the youngest, Natalie. When questioned by a friend who says Stu never wanted anything to do with kids, Stu responds be saying he doesn't want to spend the rest of his life alone.
  • Playing Against Type: In-universe example - Daniel, the happy-go-lucky life of the party, has to play a strict, crotchety old disciplinarian.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • When Daniel's mask falls out of the window, lands in the road, and then gets run over by a garbage truck.
    • This.
    • There's a rather clever aversion that still gets the point across perfectly; when "Mrs. Doubtfire" is watching the children for the first time, and gives them the task of helping with the housework, the kids rebel, only to have Daniel, in character, give a small grin: "Don't fuss with me."
  • Rage Breaking Point: Coming home to find her house overrun with children and farm animals and loud music blaring to the point where the police have been called is the final straw for Miranda.
  • Random Smoking Scene: In-Universe example: The cartoon Daniel is dubbing in the opening scene has the parakeet take a long drag of his One Last Smoke before he is eaten by the cat, thoroughly enjoying it. Daniel objects and ad-libs dialogue to make it seem as if the bird doesn't like it, then quits when he's told to follow the script, which seems to promote smoking to children.
  • Reaction Shot:
    • After Miranda says she wants a divorce, we cut to all three of the kids' faces in turn. Lydia and Natalie look downcast, and Chris is on the verge of tears.
    • A happier instance occurs when the kids are told that the legal system is no longer involved in their lives. Chris and Lydia look on approvingly while Natalie hugs their father.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • The judge is sympathetic to Daniel during the initial proceedings, saying that he's an obviously loving father and it would be unfair to grant Miranda sole custody simply because she's the mother. He gives him 90 days to find a stable job and create a suitable living space, after which he offers to consider joint custody. Once Daniel is exposed, he does still seem to be sympathetic, but notes that while he's technically completed these tasks, his behavior isn't exactly a sign of a stable, honest father-figure and refuses to expand visitation rights. After Daniel starts his TV show, Miranda speaks to the judge again and has him grant visitation rights.
    • Jonathan Lundy, the head of the studio, accepts Daniel's criticism of his work, and is willing to give him his own show when he sees how creative he is. When Daniel accidentally exposes himself as Mrs. Doubtfire, Lundy is impressed enough to give him his own show starring her, rather than disturbed.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Daniel gives one to Miranda as to how she just sat by and let the judge think he was crazy when she knew the truth. Miranda calms him down by talking about how she was angry and doesn't want to do it anymore. Then she talks about how everyone was better when Mrs. Doubtfire was in their lives and agrees to change the custody arrangement.
  • Right in Front of Me: Daniel complains at work about an extremely boring children's program currently shooting...
    Daniel: What kind of idiot kept this guy on the air for twenty-five years?
    Lundy: Me. [offering his hand] Jonathan Lundy.
    Daniel: Jonathan Lundy, General Manager, owner? [Lundy nods] I'm Daniel Hillard, former employee.
    Lundy: Maybe...
    • Luckily for Daniel, Lundy agrees that the show is awful and he's there to announce that he's taking it off the air.
  • Romantic False Lead: Averted. Miranda's new boyfriend Stu is portrayed as a perfectly decent guy who is a stable and mature partner for her and could be a good stepfather for the kids. A scene where he's away from the family (and is unaware Daniel/Mrs. Doubtfire is listening) has him directly state he's ready to settle down for a long-term commitment, and while he wasn't sure about dating a woman with children in the past, Miranda's kids have really grown on him and he genuinely loves them. His sole bad moment is when he calls Daniel a loser, but that's easily justified for a number of reasons (he hurt Miranda, for one) and he never speaks ill of Daniel in earshot of the children. He's not seen or mentioned after the dinner, but it's entirely plausible he and Miranda continued their relationship.
  • Rom Com Job: Two creative jobs: a voice actor and an interior decorator.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Daniel does this when his fake breasts catch fire during the cooking scene.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: At the beginning of the film, Daniel quits his voice acting job because he doesn't approve of how it depicts the main character smoking and is also not allowed to improvise.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: Hand-in-hand with the Two-Timer Date.
  • Secret-Keeper: Lydia and Chris become this to their father after Chris accidentally walks in on Mrs. Doubtfire in the bathroom. They also agree not to let Natalie in on Daniel's ruse because she Cannot Keep a Secret.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Stalking Is Love: Unusually, it's a man stalking his whole family rather than just his ex-wife.
  • Stealth Insult:
    • Stu is on the receiving end of a great many of these from Daniel while in disguise.
    • Daniel gives Miranda one earlier when Mrs. Doubtfire comments on her interior decorating, saying it "reeks of taste".
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Lou and Lydia both respond with "actors" when Daniel quits his voice-over work over conscientious objections.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: After Chris and Lydia find out that Daniel is Mrs. Doubtfire, he's quick to tell them that he didn't have gender reassignment surgery and that he is just wearing a latex suit.
  • Take Five: At Bridges Restaurant. With Miranda having gone to escort Nattie to the bathroom, Mrs. Doubtfire directs Chris and Lydia to leave the table and preview the dessert trays so she can be alone with Stu and take the piss out of him.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: When Daniel is not allowed to deviate from the script that calls for him to promote smoking in a cartoon since the animation was completed, Lou reminds him that if he leaves the session, he can't go back in. Daniel responds with "Piss off, Lou" in a Porky Pig impersonation, complete with stutter.
  • Taking the Kids: Since Daniel is currently unemployed, the judge grants Miranda sole custody of the children, but agrees to give Daniel joint custody if he can find a suitable job to support the children in three months.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: An invoked example. 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 become Mrs. Doubtfire.
  • Throw It In: An In-Universe example. At the start of the film, Daniel attempts to improvise the dialogue while recording a scene where Pudgey the Parrot is forced to smoke, in an attempt to prevent the scene from setting a bad example for children. But besides finding it too preachy, Lou points out that the animation is already completed and Daniel cannot adlib during scenes when Pudgey's mouth is not animated to move.
  • Toilet Seat Divorce:
    • Largely averted. The immediate cause of their divorce is that Daniel threw a birthday party for their son despite Miranda's veto. Daniel seems to think that she divorced him over minor complaints (such as him not following her system for organizing the kitchen). Miranda reveals to Mrs. Doubtfire that all of these things are just examples of the much bigger problem: that she was sick of being the only responsible partner, having to compensate for Daniel's chronic unemployment and frustrated with his reckless parenting style.
    • Earlier in the film, Lydia told Mrs. Doubtfire that she made her mom so happy than she's ever seen before. In fact, Lydia states that she can't even remember the last time her mom was ever happy.
  • Token Trio: High schooler Lydia, middle schooler Chris, and grade schooler Natalie.
  • Troll: Daniel calling Miranda in the Terrible Interviewees Montage.
  • Tuckerization: The character Aunt Jack was named after Robin Williams' favourite characters in The Aunty Jack Show (an Australian TV series).
  • Twelfth Night Adventure: A slightly more serious Dramedy variant; helped by the fact that Daniel is a Voice Changeling who can seamlessly imitate an elderly lady.
  • Two-Timer Date: Daniel both has to appear with his family as the nanny while also having a dinner with his boss, as himself. He tries to get the dates either changed or puts up an excuse, but ultimately he has no choice (The former is for Miranda's birthday, and the latter is not available for the next three months). He ends up exposing his scheme to everyone in the process.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: At the start of the movie, Daniel saying "Sure we do [have something in common], we love each other" during an argument with Miranda causes her to suddenly realize she doesn't love him anymore, and she wants a divorce, kicking off the plot of the film.
  • Visit by Divorced Dad: After the divorce, Miranda has primary custody of the kids. There is a custody arrangement and the kids visit their father every Saturday. In the end, Miranda allows Daniel to see them anytime he wants.
  • Weaponized Allergy: Daniel spikes Stu's food with peppers that he's allergic to as a prank, but when Stu starts choking Daniel realizes he crossed a line and gives him the Heimlich.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Stu disappears after the disastrous dinner and isn't seen or mentioned for the rest of the movie, although there's nothing to suggest that he breaks up with Miranda.
    • The elderly bus driver who was crushing on Mrs. Doubtfire also disappears, never finding out the truth about her identity (although he does in a deleted scene).
  • What Have I Become?: The driving reason behind Miranda's desire to get a divorce. She confesses to Mrs. Doubtfire that she hated who she had become over the course of her constant strife with Daniel, such as always having to play the bad cop to his good cop to the kids.
  • Wild Teen Party: Subverted. It's the dad who throws the wild party for his 12-year-old son. It's entirely age-appropriate but wildly excessive (involving an actual petting zoo) and against their mother's wishes. Not only does it cause trouble, but it turns out to be the last straw leading to their divorce.
  • Workplace-Acquired Abilities: Daniel is a voice actor, so it is easy for him to disguise his voice to impersonate Mrs. Doubtfire.
  • You Remind Me of X: Mrs. Doubtfire's humor reminds Miranda of her ex-husband's, and for good reason.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Used by Daniel. While modeling one of the disguises he tries out (a stereotypical baba), he says "I should never buy gribenes trans.  from a mohel trans. . They're so chewy!"