"Mrs. Doubtfire" Blu-ray Review
May 22, 2008 by Zach Demeter
How can you argue with a classic like Mrs. Doubtfire? Released at a time when Robin Williams seemed to be starring in the vast majority of comedies in Hollywood (and still is to this day, when you think about it), Mrs. Doubtfire became an instant hit for Fox upon its release. Receiving a fair bit of positive critical acclaim, Mrs. Doubtfire was so successful because it was a comedy that had some real substance to it. Interweaved behind William’s oddball humor was a real story about a father loving his children and wanting nothing more than to be with them.
After a slowly deteriorating marriage, Miranda (Sally Field) and Daniel (Robin Williams) call it quits. With Miranda having the only stable job, she is awarded sole custody of their three children, a move that devastates Daniel, who would only be allowed to see them on weekends. When he learns that Miranda is going to hire a nanny, Daniel decides to employ the talents of his make-up artist brother who transforms him into an elderly English woman named Mrs. Doubtfire. Under this persona, Daniel is able to secretly spend time with his children, all the while learning what went wrong with his marriage to Miranda.
One could easily brush past Mrs. Doubtfire as a simple comedy, but if you prod a little deeper you’ll see all kinds of issues that are being explored behind the scenes. It’s a remarkably complex movie at times, although the audience is likely unaware that any pieces of such depth are being unraveled during the course of the film. Anyone reading this review is probably questioning my sanity at this point, but if you look at the relationships between Daniel and his wife and how it progresses throughout the film, the film is a really good study of the communication that is required for a marriage. Perhaps if Daniel learned that from the start, things likely wouldn’t have turned out the way they had.
Of course you’d be kidding yourself if you were going to watch the film for the moral and social studies that it presents. No, you’re going to be coming to Mrs. Doubtfire for the comedy which Williams and director Chris Columbus effortlessly spill out onto the screen from the first moment the films tarts. Williams has his chance to show off his many impersonations and shows just how wacky he can be. In many ways the role here for Williams isn’t that much of a change from his other works, but once we takes on the persona of Doubtfire, his character changes drastically.
Many of the jokes told in the film still hold up to this day and some of the more hilarious moments occur between Williams and Pierce Brosnan, who plays the love interest of Sally Field’s character. What’s unique about this film is that it doesn’t take a divorce and try to “repair it” to see our two leads get together again in the end. Mrs. Doubtfire runs in the opposite direction and instead focuses on the moving on portion, where we see Miranda move on with her life with another man, while Daniel has to cope with the changes. It’s also refreshing to see that the role of the new boyfriend, which Brosnan fills admirably only a few years prior to his role as James Bond, is not a hateful male that you wonder why the woman is interested in. He loves her kids and he’s a perfect gentleman throughout and is quite honestly almost more likeable than Daniel in many ways.
With the moving approach its fifteenth anniversary here in another couple years, it’s remarkable how well it holds up to this day. I hadn’t seen it for years, so when I re-watched it for this latest release I was quite surprised that none of the jokes seemed stale and that, aside from some hairstyle and wardrobe choices, I doubt it’ll ever seem truly dated, even twenty years from now. Recommended.
Just when I thought a release of Mrs. Doubtfire couldn’t get any better than the Behind-the-Seams edition, here comes the Blu-ray release. While the extras are identical to the previous release (and is even split into separate areas of the DVD like the last one), the only thing that was changed for this edition was the video and audio (obviously). As expected, Mrs. Doubtfire arrives in standard Blu-ray casing without any frills (aside from an insert telling you to keep your firmware updated). Menu’s are almost identical to the “Behind-the-Seams” edition, are the usual slide-in and pop-up variety, rather than the wait-and-load we got on the DVD edition.
Mrs. Doubtfire arrives with a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer that is touted on the back of the casing as an AVC 28.5mb/s (they’re very specific) with DTS HD Master Lossless 5.1 audio. Considering this film wasn’t made with the HD format in mind, this isn’t a technical wonder to behold but the film still fantastic. There is some great detail in the wide open shots but any close ups can suffer from some detail loss. Still, no matter which way you cut it Mrs. Doubtfire still looks great in Blu-ray without any real flaws to speak of. It’s a fifteen year old movie, but after the superb DVD transfer from the two-disc DVD release, it’s no wonder that this new Blu-ray edition looks as good as it does.
As for the sound for this release the DTS MD Master Lossless 5.1 audio is about what you’d expect from a comedy. Audio is absolutely clean and clear and free of defects, but it’s also very front-focused with very little rear channel or LFE play. Not that you’d want Mrs. Doubtfire to blow your speakers out or thump the walls, but it’s a very subdued track. For those who want the audio in other flavors we have a second 5.1 Dolby Digital English track as well as French and Spanish 2.0 tracks.
For extras we first tackle eighteen deleted and extended scenes (32:04). These scenes are all completely finished; unlike the DVD release they are not anamorphic widescreen, however and quite honestly they look a bit squished like they should be. Very strange. The scenes were obviously cut for time reasons (the film itself is over two hours), but there are some sequences here that actually rival some of the humor found in the final product. Accompanying the deleted and extended segments are four alternate scenes (4:28), which are not in a finished state and are, in fact, quite ugly to watch. They are in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio inside a 4:3 frame, but the quality is much more suiting of a ten year old VHS tape.
Moving on we have an area called the “Production Office” where we focus on the making-of segments of the film. Most of the extras on this second disc are carried over from the original release and such is the case with “From Man to Mrs.: The evolution of Mrs. Doubtfire” (26:36), a five-part documentary in a 4:3 aspect ratio. This is your standard making-of, but a bit more promotional in nature as it has interviews recorded back when the film was being produced. The first new extra on the second disc we run into is “Aging Gracefully - A Look Back at Mrs. Doubtfire” (13:41), which has director Chris Columbus and Robin Williams sitting on a couch and talking about their memories of the film and how well it has held up. Columbus sets up the conversations and Williams usually finishes them off with a humorous quip or a funny voice in standard Williams fashion, but we do get to see a nice and short retrospective from the duo. Finally a behind-the-scenes photo gallery wraps up the “Production Office” area.
Next is the “Animation Studio.” The extras here are repeated from previous releases as well and include “A Conversation with Legendary Animator Chuck Jones” (4:17), “Original Pencil Test” (2:25) and “Final Animation Sequence” (5:13). The only new extra here is “Final Animation with Alternate Backgrounds” (5:50), which includes a brief text-only intro by Chris Columbus that describes what we’re about to see. Jones felt that the original backgrounds in the animation sequence were not representative of his style and that they were too realistic. Despite this, the film used the more realistic backgrounds, but Columbus put this alternate animation take on the DVD as it is what Jones preferred originally. Oddly enough this bit is presented in widescreen inside a 4:3 frame.
Moving onto the “Make-up Department” we have “Make-Up Application with Ve Neill” (4:09), a short extra that shows the entire Doubtfire makeup application process that Williams went through. “Make-Up Tests” (17:52) are included as well in two varieties: three of Williams in different make-up (two of which actually are quite scary to look at) and another two with the actors in the film. A make-up photo gallery rounds out the extras for this area of the DVD and we now can move onto the second to last area!
“Stage A” is where we find all of Robin William’s improv takes from the film. Columbus encouraged the actors to create their own dialogue for sequences to add to the spontaneity of it all and this is where we get to see some of the fruits of their labor. There are seven alternate takes in all, totaling 17:52.
Finally we have “Publicity Department”, where we see the original marketing promotions, trailers, posters and publicity gallery. “Original 1993 Featurette” (5:28) is a really brief and 100% fluff piece on the making of the film, as is “Meet Mrs. Doubtfire” (5:21). This area is rather light on extras, and unliked the DVD edition which had an easter egg titled “Meet Mrs. Featherbottom” (which, while you may think it was the alternate name for the film at one time, is actually a clip from the Fox show Arrested Development, where one of the characters takes on a role identical to the one from Mrs. Doubtfire). It’s a shame it wasn’t included here, but oh well.
As previously stated the extras are identical to the “Behind-the-Seams” edition, right down to the lack of Columbus commentary (which does exist, as it was on a previous DVD release). It would have been a nice upgrade for this Blu-ray release if it was included, but alas…this is pretty much a direct clone of their recent two-disc edition (right down to the cover art used). It’s a mixed bag—if you just bought the two-disc edition as I’d recommended in the original review, then you can safely skip this release. It’s a direct clone and I doubt too many people are going to scramble to pick up Mrs. Doubtfire on Blu-ray, but if you haven’t yet upgraded or added the film to your collection then this Blu-ray edition is worth picking up.
Mrs. Doubtfire is now available on Blu-ray.
Note: Portions of this review have been duplicated from the Behind-the-Seams edition.