With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: "Mrs. Doubtfire".
Did you know that "Mrs. Doubtfire" was the 22nd highest selling DVD in the past week, beating out the likes of "Tangled"? It's true! The 1993 Robin Williams kneeslapper has been on the DVD bestseller chart for 811 weeks. I didn't even know history contained that many weeks. It's the "Dark Side of the Moon" of DVD sales. I have no idea why it occupies such a lofty position on the DVD sales chart in 2011. It could be because Amazon is offering it as a streaming video. Or maybe Wal Mart had a big push for it in their DVD section. You never know what old movie big-box stores will randomly push on you on any given visit ("Three Men And A Little Lady" for four dollars? How can you NOT buy it?). Either way, the movie has shown remarkable staying power despite the fact that it's kind of awful. The American Film Institute rated it the 67th funniest movie of ALL TIME, beating out the likes of "Caddyshack," "The Jerk," and "Fargo," which is downright nutty. What's the secret? Why hasn't this movie gone gently into cinematic irrelevance over the past two decades? It could be because "Mrs. Doubtfire" is such a family-friendly movie. How family-friendly? Let us consider the factors
The "Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?" Factor: Your ability to sit through all two hours of "Mrs. Doubtfire" depends on whether or not you're still cool with the whole "everyone on screen thinks Robin Williams' character is HILARIOUS" thing that Williams has relied on since "Good Morning Vietnam." Given Williams' recent box office track record, you'd think Americans would have tired of him by now. But toss "Mrs. Doubtfire" on and suddenly we're willing to accept all kinds of Williams-patented zany zaniness. Perhaps people are looking for a family comedy that isn't always winking at the audience, which you get a lot of in the Age of Irony. "Mrs. Doubtfire" is many things, but insincere isn't one of them. It has HEART. Oh, does it have heart. It's like a Heart Festival out there.
The Divorce Factor: There are no dead mothers in "Mrs. Doubtfire," but the movie gets very serious right away when Sally Field asks Robin for a divorce early in the picture, which is shocking to Williams' character because hey, who wouldn't want to be married to an irresponsible clown FOREVER AND EVER? So if you're with your kids, you're gonna have to explain why Sally is divorcing Robin (he's too permissive!), and then you're gonna have to explain why Sally is shacking up with Pierce Brosnan. Fortunately, many American children have to go through REAL divorce, and so this movie acts as a kind of gentle instructional video for why mommy and daddy hate each other.
The Cross-Dressing Factor: Despite the hot-button debate about gay and transgendered rights currently roiling American politics, the fact that Robin dresses up as an old Scottish lady isn't likely to offend many parents, mostly because the Mrs. Doubtfire character isn't sexualized in any manner. If Robin were out cruising for tricks dressed like that, then your kid might have some questions. But the motivations are clear in this movie: Robin is dressing up as a lady because he wants to see his kids, not because he's a fetishist. OR IS HE?! Also, Harvey Fierstein plays the gay brother in this movie (stunning), but he's there only to help Robin with his old lady makeup. Kids may want to know why Fierstein talks like that, but I have no good answer.
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: Brosnan in a bathing suit. Nothing much more inappropriate than that. You also get a prosthetic breast fire, which is much gentler than it sounds.
The Violence Factor: None, save for a vigorous Heimlich.
Age Range: Seven and up. After you get past the painful divorce issues, you're left with inoffensive silliness. And that is apparently enough to make you a boatload in DVD sales.