There are some movies that simply never get old, no matter how many times you watch them. For most ’90s kids, that list definitely includes Mrs. Doubtfire — the story of a recently divorced man who makes himself over as a cross-dressing nanny in order to spend non-court-supervised time with his kids. It’s even more hilarious than it sounds, thanks in large part to the comic genius of its late, great star, Robin Williams. And as silly as it is, it’s also full of heart. Talk about a winning combo!
But you can’t re-watch Mrs. Doubtfire today without realizing that, hey, you missed a few major things the first go ’round. No matter how perceptive you were in your younger years, the odds are high that at least a few of these plot holes, familiar faces, and mature observations eluded your attention.
So dive back into the delightful world of impromptu (cake) face masks, but keep your eyes peeled for the following fresh insights about the movie, the myth, the legend: Mrs. Doubtfire.
Hey, that’s Matilda!
There’s no mistaking that precious smile — the film’s little Natalie and the title character in Matilda, another beloved ’90s movie, are both played by Mara Wilson. This wouldn’t have been common knowledge when Mrs. Doubtfire first debuted because it was actually Wilson’s first big role. However, she quickly rode that momentum into other cult hits like Miracle on 34th Street in ’94 and, most notably, Matilda in ’96. It was her endearing turn as Natalie, though, that kicked off this canon of incredible child star roles.
It’s hard to imagine Natalie as anyone else, right? Only, that was very nearly the case. According to Turner Classic Movies, former Gossip Girl leading lady Blake Lively almost landed the part. She was only 5 years old at the time, and it all came down to her or Wilson. Lively’s parents tried to keep her at ease going into the final audition by tricking her into thinking she was reading with Robin Williams’ twin brother — and not the actual Robin Williams. Spoiler? Her nerves got the best of her.
Bob the Mobile Pet Man kinda sucks at this job
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way first. Daniel Hillard could throw a killer party. What 12-year-old wouldn’t have wanted the kind of no-holds-barred birthday he threw for his son Chris early on in Mrs. Doubtfire? Granted, it was a teenage dream but a working mom’s nightmare. While Daniel got read the riot act by Miranda for hosting the shindig, he wasn’t the only one who needed a stern talking to — Bob the Mobile Pet Man totally dropped the ball, too.
He may have been running a mobile petting zoo, but his setup proved more like a circus. The animals were roaming all over the place! In the street, at the neighbor’s, in the house — how could he possibly have known if they were all accounted for?
They ate potentially harmful things (cake can’t be good for ponies, can it?) and were forcibly shooed off of stoops. This is not a man invested in the welfare of his pets. C’mon, Bob. Mind your responsibilities, man.
Judging by the Hillard home, Miranda is one heck of an interior designer
Watching Mrs. Doubtfire when you were younger, you may have had a passing thought that the Hillard home was nice. But, as an adult, the gravitas of a mortgage payment a home like that must entail hits you like a ton of bricks once you’ve been in the "real world" a while.
Plugging the address given in the film — 2640 Steiner Street in San Francisco — into Zillow reveals that the home is a four bedroom, four bathroom house totaling a spacious 3,300 square feet. In 2016, it sold for an impressive $4,150,000. Hotpads puts that monthly mortgage at $4,850 per month. As of 2018, Zillow valued it at almost $5 million.
Thinking of abandoning your current profession for a career in interior design just like Miranda Hillard? Don’t hand in your two weeks notice just yet. According to GlassDoor, interior designers in the San Francisco area make an average of $67,000 per year to around $90,000 on the high end.
If Miranda made the average, she probably wouldn’t have brought enough home after taxes to cover the mortgage. She also pays Mrs. Doubtfire $1,200 per month and drives a luxury car. Suffice to say that living such a comfortable lifestyle likely means she exceeds even the high estimate for interior designer salaries in San Francisco.
Harvey Fierstein has a little Fiddler moment
The kids of Mrs. Doubtfire were cute, but they had competition for the title of biggest scene-stealers. That honor may instead have gone to Uncle Frank (played by Harvey Fierstein) and Aunt Jack (played by Scott Capurro). After all, Mrs. Doubtfire’s physical persona would never have come to fruition without the handiwork of Daniel’s talented brother and brother-in-law.
Their natural charisma isn’t the only thing that makes these two so great, either. During the mask montage when they are creating the Mrs. Doubtfire face, all three burst into the song "Matchmaker." Well, any Broadway buff worth their salt — which, to be fair, you probably weren’t when you first watched this as a preteen or teen in ’93 — would recognize that the song is from Fiddler on the Roof.
That was some seriously impressive prosthetics work
Speaking of Fierstein, his character Uncle Frank and partner Aunt Jack weren’t messing around with Mrs. Doubtfire’s face and body. The end result is crazy impressive. As a kid, it’s comical, but as an adult you realize how much work must have gone into creating that look on Williams every single day on set.
In fact, the makeup artists for the movie — Greg Cannom, Ve Neill, and Yolanda Toussieng — won an Oscar the following year for best makeup. If you watch behind-the-scenes footage of the makeup application, there should be no doubt in your mind the trio deserved the award.
In 2013, Robin Williams hilariously revealed just how cumbersome it was to be transformed from Daniel to Mrs. Doubtfire. In a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session, the actor said that the makeup was so painstakingly convincing that he once nearly fooled a San Francisco sex shop cashier into thinking he was "an older Scottish woman" in search of an adult toy.
When asked whether the body padding he had to wear was hot and chafing, Williams replied, "Totally. It was like walking around with a beanbag chair for t***."
The movie flips the script on typical male-female tropes
To be honest, Mrs. Doubtfire was pretty empowering for its time. Miranda is the primary income earner, and she makes bank. In many older movies, the plot is built around the husband finding a "trophy wife" after a divorce (often preceded by adultery). However, Mrs. Doubtfire paints Miranda in a vibrant light.
Sure, she had to put on her serious face and hold down the fort during those last few years with Daniel, but she easily lands a hunky, wealthy guy while her husband watches and pines over her. A refreshing flip, no?
Several moments throughout the film also use the character of Mrs. Doubtfire to empathize with women, because Daniel was quite literally walking a mile in women’s shoes. He has to put up with the leering bus driver trying out tired lines on him every night (hello, women just want to ride the bus in silence like everyone else, bros). And when he’s in the kitchen trying to cook and accidentally sets his faux-bosoms on fire, Daniel jokes about having hot flashes on his first day as a woman.
Hmm, would that meringue face mask really work?
Be real: when you first watched Mrs. Doubtfire, you thought the scene where Mrs. Doubtfire makes tea was hysterical because it involved a dude sticking his face in a cake. Cake to the face — that shtick never gets old when you’re young. But with the uptick in DIY beauty remedies using household ingredients, it’s easy to wonder if Mrs. Doubtfire, er, Daniel was actually onto something. If you ask YouTube beauty bloggers and vloggers, the answer is yes.
There are plenty of videos floating around the internet that tout the benefits of meringue-style face masks incorporating ingredients Mrs. Doubtfire pretends to use. Egg whites? They tighten and shrink pores. Vanilla? It fights acne and protects skin from free radicals.
Looks like Daniel may have known more about women’s beauty rituals than he thought, although actually whipping up a real mask would have been better than dunking his head in super-sugary cake frosting.
Times have changed for the trans community
To be clear, Daniel as Mrs. Doubtfire would make him a cross dresser or drag queen and not a transgender person. However, there are several moments in the film that speak to the stigma surrounding the trans community in the early ’90s.
When Daniel’s son, Chris, catches Mrs. Doubtfire using the bathroom standing up, he seems revolted. When Miranda interviews a potential nanny who reveals they were once a man (but no longer), she grows visibly disgusted and hangs up abruptly, saying, "Yikes."
The public perception of the trans community has since evolved, making these scenes, to be honest, a little uncomfortable to watch. But how does the trans community feel about the film? Well, in a Reddit "asktransgender" thread, one transgender person explains that after the movie debuted, some people used the name "Mrs. Doubtfire" as a sort of transphobic slur.
Still, the movie isn’t considered openly transphobic. People in the community underscore the fact that Daniel was only cross-dressing and, then, only in farce. Plus, given how fantastic the characters of the gay couple Uncle Frank and Aunt Jack are, it’s relatively LGBTQ friendly. All of that to say it’s nice to see progress has been made in film and television when it comes to the characterization and treatment of trans people.
Captain Jim Brass does not belong in the kitchen
In the scene during which Mrs. Doubtfire sneaks into the kitchen to go rogue with pepper on Stu’s dish in an attempted sabotage, we catch a glimpse of the head chef.
Given the fact that it’s a brief moment and a minor character, you probably couldn’t have cared less who it was when you were younger. But re-watching it, you’ll likely recognize the face, and get a certain theme song stuck in your head. The head chef in Mrs. Doubtfire is played by actor Paul Guilfoyle, who played Captain Jim Brass from 2000 to 2014 on the flagship CSI series.
So, unless there was a crime in there, Guilfoyle being in the kitchen seems out of place. It’s no wonder he let Mrs. Doubtfire sneak by and practically poison someone’s food! His specialty is pursuing violent criminals, not running a tight kitchen.
Speaking of the kitchen, something smells fishy
The dinner scene in Mrs. Doubtfire creates more questions than answers. Like, as mentioned above, how Mrs. Doubtfire would have managed to get access to pepper and drench Stu’s food in it without being carted off the premises. But also, how would Stu not have noticed it? Pepper has a strong smell, and Mrs. Doubtfire poured it liberally. Surely Stu would have caught a whiff of it, or even seen it before chowing down.
On that note, Stu announces when they’re ordering that he would like jambalaya — but not spicy jambalaya, because he’s allergic to pepper (like, really, who’s allergic to pepper?). This means that when he took a bite, the most likely reaction would have been an allergic reaction. Instead, Stu begins to choke, and when Miranda pats him on the back he manages to get a whole shrimp lodged in his throat. If his allergies were severe, he could have suffered life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Either way, Mrs. Doubtfire doing the Heimlich may have dislodged the shrimp, but Stu would have still needed a shot from an Epi pen and subsequent medical attention. Barring all of that, though, who orders jambalaya "not spicy"? Is that even a thing?
That Dead Poet’s Society reference is a dagger through the heart
While Robin Williams made many iconic movies throughout his career, Dead Poet’s Society is arguably the most special to fans — with one particular scene in the film remaining an oft-quoted inspiration.
In the stirring scene, Williams’ character, John Keating, stands his class before a case filled with photographs of the men who came before them. "Go on, lean in. Listen," he whispers to them. "You hear it?… Carpe… Hear it?… Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."
It’s no great wonder that, when Williams passed away unexpectedly in 2014, fans built entire tributes around references to the 1989 film. Or that journalists and outlets often categorize it as one of the best films of all time. So when Mrs. Doubtfire drops her dentures at dinner and says, "Carpe Dentum… seize the teeth" — an obvious nod to Dead Poets Society — it will wreck you.
Oh captain, my captain… you are greatly missed.
The mailman is the OG dinosaur man
The major plot catalyst in Mrs. Doubtfire is that Miranda decides to divorce Daniel, at which point a judge gives him three months to find a home and suitable employment. The latter of these stipulations comes to fruition when Daniel’s court-appointed liaison helps him get a gig sorting and carting film reels for a local television studio.
It’s at that point the "dinosaur" of an old man responsible for the network’s educational children’s show is introduced. When Daniel jokes about how the man may soon go extinct, the studio head, Mr. Lundy, says he is going to fire the veteran entertainer (played by the late William Newman). Since Mr. Lundy then approaches Daniel about doing a show for him, it’s assumed that the old man was in fact fired.
However, when Daniel does finally get his own show, the doorbell on the set rings toward the end of the show. It’s a letter from a fan, and the mailman delivering it is the same old man the network originally intended to fire. Here, he is introduced as "Mr. Sprinkles." Never made this connection the gazillion times you watched the movie growing up? You’re not alone.
Someone definitely missed a major spin-off opportunity
Who among us wouldn’t have watched eagerly if there really had been an after-school television program starring Robin Williams? Director Chris Columbus really teed this thing up for a spin-off series, but no one ever took a swing.
However, that doesn’t mean Hollywood had forgotten about this film gem altogether. Tragically, a sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire was in the works at the time of Williams’ death. "We said for years that we would never do it," Columbus told Entertainment Weekly of shooting a sequel. "Then somebody came up with a really interesting idea, and we agreed to develop a script."
After the beloved actor passed, though, they couldn’t fathom replacing him. Said Columbus, "That was the last time I saw Robin, sadly, when we were talking about the sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire." As for the idea they could revisit the role with a different actor, the director noted, "It definitely will never happen now."