Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Battle Of The Robin Williams's Family Movies: Mrs Doubtfire vs Hook

& Why Mrs Doubtfire Is Overrated & Hook Is Underrated 

It's the tale of the tape as I compare and contrast 2 of Robin Williams well-known family movies: Steven Spielberg's 'Hook' from 1991 and Chris Columbus's 'Mrs Doubtfire' from 1993. In these 2 particular hits, it appears that one of these movies isn't as well-received as the other and vice-versa. Whilst Mrs Doubtfire became the sure-fire box office hit, Hook, on the other hand, didn't make as much money as the cross-dressing nanny comedy blockbuster. 

I've been pretty much defending the Peter Pan epic 'Hook' in one of my other posts, and I wanted to address this argument further & add my reasons as to why, despite the thrashing this movie received in the 1990s, I love 'Hook' so much. In addition, I also wanted to state my reasons as to why I didn't enjoy 'Mrs Doubtfire' as much as other people did and thus, regard the movie as overrated. 


*This post may contain spoilers*

Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

  • Mrs Doubtfire getting a TV show - an old lady presenting a kids TV show is only something that could happen outside of the U.S & UK. I understand that Daniel wanted to find acting work, but he could have done so without having to don the Mrs Doubtfire costume. 

  • Mrs Doubtfire poisoning Stu - sure Daniel was jealous of Stu entering Miranda's life. Okay, he threw an orange at the back of his head during a swimming pool scene. But was it necessary for him to go to the extremes by killing him? It was bizarre. Daniel was grouchy at times during this movie, but to have him poisoning Stu's food, I just didn't buy that, whatsoever. 
  • Miranda treating Daniel like crap and how the film made Daniel look like and feel like a total jerk, especially when it came to the kids - Daniel isn't perfect, but that's not to say he has done anything to harm his family. It's not like he physically abused his kids or Miranda. Therefore, it was spiteful on Miranda's part trying to make his life a misery. Uptight, she was being very vindictive and came across as a woman who made herself look worse, not to mention dis-likeable & cold. Sally Field often plays interesting and likeable characters, but Miranda just wasn't and isn't one of them: she was mostly obnoxious. Quite honestly, I'm not a huge fan of either Daniel or Miranda: both characters have their faults, and Daniel Hillard is one of my least favourite characters Robin Williams has played. I am not doubting Robin Williams's performance at all in this movie, but Daniel, even though he is a good father, some of the things he did, was just too silly. The movie tried to make him feel like a complete and total fool, who doesn't deserve to be a parent, whilst sympathising with and siding with Miranda and her attempts at severing the kids ties with their father. I understand the movie was trying to portray a realistic depiction of divorce - it was how it was conveyed through the eyes of director Chris Columbus that I really didn't buy into. Even though the main protagonist of the movie was Daniel, the film portrayed him in a negative light - and that in turn made me dislike some of his characteristics and behaviour.

  • As amusing as this movie was at times, the idea of a man disguised in drag to land a job as a nanny and to see his children more often, despite Miranda's court order gag which was imposed on Daniel, was ridiculous. If this happened in real life, he would have been carted off to the nearest asylum or psychiatric ward. Though I found Robin Williams amusing at times as Mrs Doubtfire, there were things throughout this movie that I found to be cringe-worthy and too predictable. 
  • The restaurant scene wasn't orchestrated well - I could see what they were trying to do with Daniel trying to be himself and Mrs Doubtfire by playing dual roles whilst in the same restaurant. This particular scene in the movie would have been and could have been great - but there were just too many interruptions that disrupted the flow of that scene. It just didn't work. 

  • For a comedy that is 2 hours long, it was a long, hard slog. It dragged on for far longer than it should have. Some of the scenes in the film such as Daniel trying to be himself AND Mrs Doubtfire in his apartment with the social worker paying a visit and during the restaurant scene went on a tad too long.  
  • It had (arguably) one of the most embarrassing scenes: Daniel dressed as Mrs Doubtfire peeing in the toilet and his son, Chris who opens the door & catches him in the act. So cringing. Some people may find this amusing, but in the context of the movie itself, it was soo bad. It was embarrassing and I was just cringing rather than laughing. 

  • Too saccharine and sentimental, cookie-cutter material, humour was also more childish than well done for a family comedy movie  
  • It lacked some warmth & romanticism - despite the sentimentality of this movie and being a comedy, it just seemed to evoke some negative vibes and constant scenes of Miranda making snide comments about Daniel, especially whilst he was disguised as Mrs Doubtfire. Which was odd for a so-called 'family' movie. I know the movie tried to deal with the concept of divorce, and it isn't an easy subject to talk about in a light-hearted manner, but I was getting a negative feeling in some parts, & often it was leaning too much on the negative. But at least towards the end of the movie during their one-to-one meeting, he made it clear to Miranda how much she had hurt him. You know what I would've liked to have seen in this movie? Divorced Daniel moving on from Miranda and finding someone who will love him and see through his flaws and help him become a better person, even if this upsets the kids. Or during the scene below, Daniel tells Miranda, he has met a woman and that they are dating each other. Daniel's a great dad, but he wasn't mature enough for Miranda and they were completely mismatched. As much as he loves his children and they adore him as a father, he deserves to find love and to be in a committed relationship that doesn't involve his estranged wife, who has made her feelings clear that she doesn't love him, anymore. I know a lot of you think this isn't a good thing, but it would have been nice if this movie and the book addressed this storyline. I mean, Miranda chased Hue, and it never stopped her finding someone else. Lacking warmth is not the same as being saccharine: you can still have a movie that tugs at your heartstrings without it becoming too sappy. 

  • If the kids had been a lot younger, then I could see the humour and sentimentality in this film, no matter how silly it was, work. The fact that 2 of the 3 kids were teenagers meant that it - as in the humour and the writing - just didn't fly off. 

  • The kids lacked personality and were tedious - sorry, but the way they were written made me want to care less about them. 
  • This movie is a poor man's imitation of 'Tootsie' - almost similar premise, excluding the family element, Dustin Hoffman's Tootsie - through his character Michael Dorsey, who was also an actor, pulled off the cross-dressing theme (far) better than in Mrs Doubtfire & it was far less corny as well. If you've never seen Tootsie, I recommend that you do, because it is the superior movie. 

  • This movie is a tad over-rated - I enjoy so many of Robin Williams movies, but this is an example of a film that for all its success and popularity, I'm not an avid lover of it as much as Robin Williams's other films, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable. Sure it made more money than 'Hook' at the box office and many Robin Williams fans, and fans of family movies would rank Mrs Doubtfire high on their list. But for me, in hindsight at best it's all right in places. It was reported that Robin Williams turned down the chance to do a sequel to this movie. 

Hook (1991)

  • I felt there was more of a chemistry and understanding between Peter and Tinkerbell than Peter and Moira - this is actually more of a sore point, but I just wasn't feeling Peter and Moira together as a couple in the movie. It might be because of the actress who played her, or just how she was portrayed by Spielberg. She was a total bore; other than being Wendy's granddaughter, I don't see what made her so interesting and she didn't do or say much of significance or interest throughout the film. There was no chemistry between those two characters. Peter should have stayed in Neverland: in London & whilst living in the US, he was a pretty boring character and it was when he went back to Neverland that he became interesting, when he became 'the Pan'. Yes, people complained about Julia Roberts's character, but I actually liked this version of Tinkerbell. And I liked Peter and Tink and their scenes together in Hook: they had a connection, a bond that only they can understand. Throughout this movie, we see more of that Tink and Peter friendship and bond developing. The ending saddened me, however, & it would not be the only I'd opt for, personally. 
  • The Peter Pan and Tinkerbell kiss did not offend me & was NOT out of character - yes, a lot of people thought this was weird & were outraged and that the writer and Steven Spielberg had a warped sense of reality when they came up with this idea. It took me by surprise when I first saw it, but I feel people who were upset by it read into this scene a bit too much. Innocuous? Absolutely not. Incestuous? I disagree entirely. If that was the case in this movie, then Robin Williams or Julia Roberts would make out with a teenage actor or actress playing Peter or Tink - and that would have been worse. Much worse. Just because Tinkerbell is tiny as a fairy, & rescued Peter as an orphan, who is not to say that she can't have feelings for Peter, as they used to hang out together. Also, in the animated movie and book, the age gap between Peter and Tink isn't that far off. I'm guessing they were of the same age range; the only reason why people disagreed with that scene was because Tink is tiny and Peter is a grown person. And yet Tink magically transformed herself into a live person. This is a grown-up, somewhat mature version of the Peter Pan tale that has Tinkerbell, who as Peter's female companion, deals with her romantic feelings for him and reacts to them & stuns Peter with a kiss. In 1947, the actual production of Peter Pan began. Tinkerbell was written as a hot-headed pixie and Peter's closest friend, who becomes envious of Wendy and Peter's relationship. Since then, Peter grew up from a boy to a man, married Wendy's granddaughter, Moira and in Hook, Tink becomes smitten of Peter and Moira's relationship. In other words, she feels that Peter and she belong with each other. So to say Tink doesn't have a thing for Peter, is bogus; likewise, all the criticisms and the uproar over Peter and Tinkerbell's kiss in Hook, story-wise, fall short of the mark, as Tinkerbell's feelings for Peter go as far back as the novel (which this movie is based on) and in the 1947 tale, 'Peter and Wendy' by JM Barrie. Her feelings for him did surface and I'd argue it was not played out in 1991's Hook, just for shock value, nor was it out of character. It appears that she is in love with him. As for the kiss itself, that was some kiss shared between Robin Williams and Julia Roberts. It's not often that during his career Robin Williams gets romantic screen time, other than on Mork and Mindy. But boy, what a kiss that was. It was at the same time hot, & also poignant. Sometimes, kissing scenes in movies don't work, mostly because the actors and actresses involved don't make it look convincing enough. That, or that passionate kiss was bad and sloppy & you can't feel and sense the chemistry between the pairing. People may have hated their kiss - I, for one, enjoyed it very much.

  • Even at over 2 hours long, the longer it went on, the more I became engrossed in the story, & the more I got 'hooked' into this movie (see what I did there - hooked, 'Hook'). 
  • The sets were lavish and looked amazing.  
  • Having an older Peter Pan and having the story set in the present day - It's not often you get different interpretations, iterations of the same story, and whilst there have been a few on-screen versions of Peter Pan, they all follow the same plot with a younger Peter Pan. With Hook, you see an older Peter Pan in Peter Banning and how he adjusts to life, as well as revisiting his roots and reclaiming his identity as the hero by going back to Neverland, becoming the leader of the Lost Boys and battling Captain Hook. 

  • Peter Pan becoming a lawyer named Peter Banning who goes to Neverland to become Peter Pan to save his kids - brilliant. This twist gave the movie something to work with, besides the pirate theme rather than just your typical standard pirate movie, such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Peter Banning transforming himself into Peter Pan to rescue his kidnapped children from Captain Hook by going to Neverland made much more sense than struggling actor Daniel Hillard transforming into Mrs Doubtfire by disguising himself as a housekeeper, in order to see his kids in the present setting. 
  • Hook worked as an action-adventure fantasy, modern-day type of movie - despite the critics who said otherwise. The Lost Boys, pirate land, swashbuckling action, an intriguing and engaging narrative and plot, romance, some touching moments and some humour. These are some of the hallmarks of a great action-adventure movie, based on Peter Pan.  
  • Hook had more heart than Mrs Doubtfire - there I said it; both movies had sentimental value, but I resonated with Hook more. The touching moments were profound and poignant and heartfelt, its values were and still are today much more relatable and understanding, to me that is than that of Mrs Doubtfire. Over 20 years ago, it was Mrs Doubtfire that really got me interested in Robin Williams's movies and as a teenager, I was enjoying the sentimentality of it, but as an adult, I leaned more towards the Peter Pan fantasy tale. Every time, I come away from watching Hook with a huge smile on my face. From Peter's heart- to- heart talk with one of the Lost Boys, Peter rediscovering his inner childhood, his transformation from a stuff- shirted, workaholic lawyer into an all-round pirate fighting hero, Peter and Tinkerbell's bond and kiss, Peter getting his kids back, it's these moments that will live on for me, more-so than the silly antics of Mrs Doubtfire

  • The Lost Boys were all right - I didn't care too much for Peter's kids, but the Lost Boys were okay. They and Tinkerbell didn't annoy me. 

  • Hook was and still is underrated - whilst Mrs Doubtfire was lambasted by critics like the former, Hook received more of a savaging by the press & movie critics when it came out, compared to Mrs Doubtfire. When looking back on it over 25 years later, 'Hook' was and still is nowhere near as bad as they made it out to be. I loved it. 
  • The casting was spot on - in the 1990s, Julia Roberts, Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman along with Bob Hoskins were huge stars and this all-star casting was the stuff of dreams. Roberts was the leading lady in Hollywood (thanks to her turn in Pretty Woman in 1990) and she played Tinkerbell well (despite rumours that she didn't get on well with the crew), whilst Williams and Hoffman had successes with Mork & Mindy, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Fisher King for Robin Williams and the latter with The Graduate, Kramer vs Kramer, Rain Man and Tootsie for Dustin Hoffman. Not many films starring Robin Williams have a star-studded cast in them, but Hook was an exceptionSome people questioned the choice of Robin playing Peter Pan, but he was perfect. There were also rumours that Tom Hanks was also in the running for that role, yet after watching Hook, I was so glad Robin Williams nabbed the part. I couldn't think of anyone else, who could have played and portrayed Peter Pan with such conviction and emotion, as well as Robin Williams. Plus, he had his arms and upper body shaved for the role, so kudos to him for having it done. 


  • And finally, this film emphasised the importance of fun, having an active imagination and embracing your inner child, something that the critics have overlooked. As I never bought into the criticism and flak Hook received, considering most of it was totally undeserved. 

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