Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

(On Cable TV, June 2016) I’m sure that the filmmakers wanted me to like Mrs. Doubtfire more than I did. Featuring Robin Williams as an immature dad cross-dressing as a way to stay in touch with his kids following a messy separation, Mrs. Doubtfire navigates a tricky line between Williams’ high-intensity comedy and the somewhat more sobering implications of a disintegrating marriage. There’s a layer of duplicity and impossible logistics to the film that makes it harder to enjoy the moment you look closer at it. (Do you know how much close-up face prosthetics cost and how long they take to apply?) For a while, it doesn’t matter very much, especially when Williams is on-screen making funny voices and working without a leash. But anyone expecting a tidy conclusion will have to contend with a romantic rival who’s not despicable, a conclusion that doesn’t patch everything together and an ending where things go on uncomfortably. I’d normally appreciate such a nuanced conclusion, but it merely reinforces a feeling that for a comedy, Mrs. Doubtfire is a sad film, with good people driven to lies and unhealthy behaviour. Much of the same can be said of the film itself: sometimes, we’re torn between opposite impulses, and they end up making a mess of good intentions. Here, the drama undermines the comedy and the comedy undermines the drama, leaving no-one truly happy.

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