More should have been made of Robin Williams’ transformation into an old lady for his role as Mrs Doubtfire. I’m not exactly talking Oscars but it is easy to overlook the transformation that Williams’ undergoes to become the new nanny for his children. The accent is great, the mannerism’s are markedly different and it’s not exactly clear that it is Robin Williams underneath the mask and bodysuit.
It’s a perfect vehicle for his talents as a comedy actor. His role as Daniel Hillard is that of an actor and voice-over artist and the movie never misses an opportunity to let Williams have fun with the role. From the very beginning, as he voices a cartoon, to an interview with a court liaison where he tries to demonstrate his talent for “voices,” there are plenty of opportunities to see the comedy talents that made Williams a star.
It’s not just a movie about a guy doing voices though. The situations that he finds himself in as Mrs Doubtfire and his attempts to hide his identity are fantastic. The home visit from the court liaison is a great spectacle, as Williams’ character must balance both roles, as Daniel and his visiting “sister.” The same is repeated, to lesser effect, in a restaurant with his family and prospective employer.
The montages are also used well, quickly showing how crazy the lifestyle is and giving Williams some free-reign with the character, from a mugging gone wrong to a great way to do the housecleaning. It’s a perfect vehicle for Robin Williams and subsequently a very funny film.
It isn’t just about the laughs though and there is a great heart at the centre of the movie. The film pauses at great times to show a dramatic side, none more so in the two effective court scenes. These show Williams dramatic acting and how effective he can play that sort of role too. It’s not just a silly film about a man in drag but really a movie about family and what that means.
His family is ably cast, offering him great support. The kids play their roles very well, with Mara Wilson stealing the child limelight as the cute, “say anything” daughter. Her reaction when she discovers the truth is enough to melt the coldest of hearts. It’s Sally Field that helps the movie along furthest though. Her role is difficult because she begins as the “bad guy,” the reason Robin Williams has to perform this charade, but as the film progresses, she brings the audience on side and gives some great comedy performances to match Williams himself.
The film is always Robin Williams’ movie though and alongside Dead Poets Society and Aladdin, will be the movie that people strongly associate the late actor with. This is for good reason as he is at his funniest, with great one-liners, slapstick comedy and heartfelt, dramatic acting too.
Overall, Mrs Doubtfire is a Robin Williams classic which showcases his transformative comedy talents. He manages to convince not just his family but the audience that he is a 60-year-old nanny, as well as sell the problems that go with it with hilarious results. The movie also has a great dramatic heart at its centre though and Robin Williams shines in that role too.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)