Milwaukee Film Festival: “Call Me Lucky” and “Nina Forever”

Call Me Lucky

Barry Crimmins made a name for himself as a humorist in Boston in the 1980s, influencing many young humorists, including Bobcat Goldthwait, the director of this film. Crimmins revealed he had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and went on to take on AOL’s role in the distribution of child pornography in the 1990s.

Even though Crimmins left a mark on comedy with his incisive take on the United States government, he still manages to be a somewhat obscure figure, possibly because he’s largely been inactive for several years as he’s been living in a cabin in rural New York. But Goldthwait’s film gives you a reason to care about him even though he’s possibly the prickliest of subjects for a rather uplifting and moving documentary. One of the things the film excels at is showing how Crimmins could be an incredibly caring person while also showing his tendency to some times lash out at his audience members or other comedians. Even though it is made by a friend of the subject, it manages to be very even-handed and fair in the best way possible.

Although a dark film because of what the subject endured, Call Me Lucky manages to be an uplifting and hopeful film. This should come as no surprise for those who have seen Goldthwait’s other films that, although fictional, manage to find the right balance between hope and darkness. It is hopeful that although this film features a formerly volatile subject it brings hope to those who see it and an added familiarity to the subject.

5 out of 5 stars

Nina Forever

Rob (Cian Barry) is starting to move on from the death of his girlfriend, Nina (Fiona O’Shaughnessy), and decides to hook up with his co-worker from the grocery store, Holly (Abigail Hardingham). Unfortunately, Nina has developed a habit of coming back to life in the middle of Rob and Holly’s sex, violently appearing as a bloody figure through the sheets and bed. To complicate this, Nina usually makes some quip after interrupting the sex.

Nina Forever should work and be a great film, in theory. But it struggles to find the right tone as there is something inherently bizarre and humorous about a wise-cracking girlfriend emerging from a bed mid-coitus with glass shards sticking out of her face, which contradicts the rather thoughtful examination of love, loss and being in a relationship aware of the history a significant other has. The tones are at odds with each other, which is unfortunate because had the film picked one tone and ran with it, it could have been a fantastic film.

This does not detract from the fantastic visuals and imagery in the movie, including make-up causing Holly to appear to have sunken in eyes and the repeated motif of Nina’s parents drinking red wine. The three lead actors give fantastic performances, particularly Barry who is torn between wanting to be with Holly and having to put up with Nina occasionally popping up in the middle of sex.

3 out of 5 stars

Milwaukee Film Festival: “Iris” and “30 Seconds Away: Breaking the Cycle”


Iris Apfel became a fashion icon basically by doing her own thing and not caring what other people wanted. As she states in Albert Maysles’ documentary, “It’s better to be happy than well-dressed.” With her legendary over-sized glasses, chunky necklaces and bracelets and unique pieces of clothing, Apfel has become an artist in her own right.

Maysles’ has a unique knack for portraits of interesting individuals–If you haven’t seen Grey Gardens, which he directed with his brother, you should–as this film shows Apfel interacting with her husband and members of the fashion industry in New York.

The documentary manages to be breezy while giving us a good idea of who Apfel is and her rise to being someone beloved enough to receive a tribute in the form of windows at Bergdorf Goodman. (Really, that’s when you’ve made it.) The documentary doesn’t have any real heft to it compared to other films at the Milwaukee Film Festival about individuals who did their own thing, but this doesn’t require that. It suffers from the lack of a structure or a sense as to the timeline of when events occur for Apfel–even if you read a lot of fashion coverage you may feel lost as we bounce around from one thing to the other–but it manages to be a good portrait of someone who truly is 93 years young.

4 out of 5 stars

30 Seconds Away: Breaking the Cycle

Milwaukee, like many major cities, has a sizable homeless population, many of whom face problems including mental illness and drug addiction. Former federal agent Faith Kohler makes her directing debut with this documentary, filmed over the course of five years.

In an attempt to make a documentary looking at this issue from multiple perspectives–those on the streets, the Milwaukee Police Department, and Milwaukee County judges–Kohler ends up making a film that is scattered-brained. What could have been a good focus point, the attempts of Harold Sloan to stay sober, have a place to live and a steady job, is diluted with other examinations of homeless individuals in Milwaukee whose stories are discussed, but then dropped until the text epilogue. Sloan is someone audiences can empathize with as we see his efforts to improve his life and stay off the streets and as we see him in court, Kohler could have easily woven in the other aspect of the story from the criminal justice system and the struggle to balance trying to enforce laws while trying to truly help the homeless in the city.

Instead we are given a film that goes on for too long and features poor production, such as jerky camera work and muddled audio, making it often difficult to understand what interview subjects are saying. What could have been a moving examination of something Milwaukeeans possibly don’t think much about ends up being a frustrating film, making you wish a better movie had been made about this important issue.

1.5 out of 5 stars

Milwaukee Film Festival: “The Russian Woodpecker” and “Wisconsin’s Own”

The Russian Woodpecker
A woodpecker sound was detected over radio waves in the 1970s. The sound originated from the Soviet’s over-the-horizon radar system, Duga. Duga consisted of three radars, one of is located in Chernobyl. Chad Gracia’s debut film follows Fedor Alexandrovich’s investigation into the cause of the Chernobyl disaster, one he survived but was affected by as a child. As he walks the ruins of the worker’s village in Chernobyl, sometimes wrapped in plastic wrap while carrying a torch, his search leads him to the looming antennas of Duga, sitting there haunting the irradiated countryside.

The journey leads to questioning former Chernobyl and Soviet officials, making the safety of Alexandrovich and the film’s crew increasingly precarious. Although the film yields a rather convincing argument surrounding the Chernobyl disaster, it may seem far-fetched for some viewers.

This does not detract from the success of the film as Gracia has created a documentary that plays like a mystery-thriller with a magnetic personality at its center. While the film tackles Duga, Chernobyl, the rising tensions between Russian and the Ukraine and Fedor’s dreams of him naked, wrapped in plastic wrap and carrying a torch–it’s oddly less weird when you see it–it manages to handle all of these threads while making a well-paced, engrossing film. Throughout the entire thing is the theme of the USSR rearing its ugly head again as we see the problems that arose from the Soviets in the 1980s.

Even if the film doesn’t convince audience members the theory presented is true, it manages to suck you into the paranoia of post-USSR Ukraine while showing why it’s important to question the past in order to prepare for the future.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Wisconsin’s Own

Old Fashioned: The Story of the Wisconsin Supper Club

The supper club is a Wisconsin institution I admit to have not participated in yet, but Holly L. De Ruyter’s documentary on supper clubs is a thorough and delightful look at the family-owned restaurants. The film has interviews with supper club owners and patrons, as well as historians to explain what makes supper clubs an endearing part of Wisconsin dining culture.

De Ruyter’s documentary, although short, feels as though it covers all of bases on the topics while coming across some interesting characters, such as a particular supper club patron who has some interesting insight into why she enjoys supper clubs. The film features great graphics, including one explaining how the brandy old fashioned sweet is made, and an amazing opening title sequence. Knowing De Ruyter had edited out some of the interview makes one wonder if there’s uncovered territory, but on the other hand she avoids the problem of having a movie that goes on too long and feels over stuffed.

4 out of 5 stars

Tale of the Spotted Cow

The New Glarus Brewering Company has gained a reputation for producing delicious beer only for sale in Wisconsin. The documentary, directed by Bill Roach and written by Curry Kirkpatrick, tells about how Daniel and Deb Carey started and continue to run the brewery in what is essentially the ideal story of the American Dream. Deb Carey had a hard childhood and money for them was tight, but they took a risk and started the brewery one year in the 1990s. The brewery took off and started to grow before Carey made the decision to have it sold only in Wisconsin. It has continued to grow with Spotted Cow being the number one draft beer in Wisconsin.

Although this is a story that should be told, Roach and Kirkpatrick were not the people to tell it. The film has a very amateurish feel starting with the use of rolling dark clouds when going back in time to discuss Deb Carey’s troubled childhood. The film’s biggest problem is the use of a narrator who has a distinctive accent that is not one of a Wisconsinite. It becomes a distraction during the film about something that is unique to Wisconsin, causing the film to lack authority.

The script for the narration is riddled with cliches and hackneyed lines, including one at the end quoting St. Francis of Assisi and connecting it to New Glarus’ beer. The film only really works when it focuses on the interviews with the Careys–which thankfully makes up a lot of this film–who are both vibrant personalities behind a Wisconsin legend. Had this film, which is only a little more than half an hour in length, focused on them with b-roll from both the brewery and the town and archival photos from the subjects, it would have possibly worked. Unfortunately, the film lacks the polish to tell this story as well as it could have.

Two out of five stars

Thoughts on “Fun Home”

“Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir about her relationship with her closeted father and her coming to terms with her sexuality, was a book I found heartbreaking and brilliant when I read it as a freshman at DePaul University. Bechdel, whose work I was familiar with having read “Dykes to Watch Out For” in the gay newspaper in Iowa, managed to use a medium usually viewed as trivial and tell a very cerebral story without coming off as pretentious. Naturally I was curious to see how the musical adaptation turned out simply because it seemed like the least likely source material for a musical, but there’s currently a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton, so 2015 is the year of Daring Concepts on Broadway Actually Being Successful at the Box Office. (“Fun Home,” although not grossing nearly as much as “Hamilton,” is consistently selling out.)

The musical “Fun Home,” written by Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron, manages to be an incredibly smart show without taking line-for-line what Bechdel wrote in her memoir. Discussions are had about “Collette,” kids sing lyrics about aneurysm hooks and the lyrics have motifs that work well to convey the pain of the Bechdel women living in the stifling facade of Bruce (Michael Cerveris). In one scene where Bruce seduces Roy (Joel Perez), the handyman, Helen (Judy Kuhn) sings “Maybe not right now. Maybe not right now” while in another room, aware of what is happening. A few scenes later, those lyrics and music pops up when Small Alison (Gabriella Pizzolo at the performance I attended) wants to wear sneakers and a shirt instead of a party dress, but is told no by her father before he tells her she can dress how she wants if she’s okay with everyone judging her. Somehow the show manages to still feel accessible even when book titles and discussions are being tossed around.

Kron and Tesori manage to avoid having any numbers that feel unnecessary. Out of context, “Come to the Fun Home” and “Raincoat of Love” could give an impression of being numbers where the show grinds to a halt, but both of them serve important narrative functions. “Come to the Fun Home” shows how the Bechdel children tried to have a normal childhood while also helping in the family funeral home, which then leads in very well to Small Alison being shown a dead body by her father. “Raincoat of Love” is a fantasy sequence where Small Alison imagines her family happy and Partridge Family-esque, not torn apart by her father’s secrets.

The production also manages to succeed because it’s staged in the round–I don’t know how this show can be taken on tour–and since it’s a memory musical, we see Alison (Beth Malone) interloping in her memories, cringing at the awkwardness of her as a first-year student at Oberlin College. It also makes it incredibly easy to watch everything happening on stage. There are also brilliant flourishes such as the items in the Bechdel family house disappearing through the trap doors, leaving large holes in the stage as Bruce sings right before committing suicide.

The only potential problem I could see people having with the show is Bruce is viewed as being gay by Alison, but Helen simply explains he’s had affairs with other men. In Bechdel’s novel, she writes the reason she refers to her father as gay instead of bisexual is possibly because it then gives them a connection. I didn’t have an issue with it since sexuality is complicated and I feel like the show dealt more with the very complex relationship Alison had with her father.

Sam Gold has done a fantastic job directing a terrific cast, with standout performances from Cerveris, Malone and Kuhn. (I was silently sobbing during “Days and Days,” Helen’s big number. The 2014-15 season on Broadway was a good season for supporting actors giving fantastic performances.) I have been incredibly lucky to see three productions this season where it felt like every element of the production was perfect. It really feels like a bold new musical and theater is better with it in existence.

I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Loverboy”

Occasionally I’ll watch a movie and afterwards wonder if I was too harsh on other movies. Yes, Divergent, Mrs. Doubtfire and Myra Breckinridge are that bad, but Loverboy is such a bad film, best lost to time since it is so heavily dated, it makes Catch Hell look like Casablanca.

Randy Bodek (Patrick Dempsey) is a college student who has a girlfriend, Jenny (Nancy Valen), but is often distracted by partying and other stuff. As it turns out, he’s failed nearly every class and his father, Joe (Robert Ginty), is sick of paying for college. Randy turns to delivering pizza for a Mexican-themed pizza restaurant, but is invited to have sex with an older women, Alex (Barbara Carrera). After telling her his woes, she starts paying him for sex, so Randy becomes a gigolo. Meanwhile, his father thinks he’s gay and his mother thinks her husband is cheating on her.

Patrick Dempsey is a great actor and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of his acting on Grey’s Anatomy. The thing is in this film, which he was 23-years-old when it was released, he looks way too young for this film to not be gross. After you watch this movie, you will definitely need to take a shower. And the thing is, it’s not just he has an affair with an older woman. He is paid to have sex with older women and he unwillingly becomes a prostitute because the number for the pizza place gets passed around. And no where is there a scene where someone is reaching for a condom, not even a hilarious scene where Randy is carrying a massive amount of condom boxes, some falling to the floor as he walks.

The film is also rated PG-13 and there’s a part of me that feels like if it was rated R and more explicit about the sex, it would be more enjoyable, but I also think then you would feel the desire to burn your DVD player because of how gross you’d feel after watching this film. All that’s shown that’s sexual is post-coital cuddling and licking and some heavily obscured scissoring. Everything else we’re told happens while Randy dances with women and feeds them ice cream. (I really wish I was making up everything I just typed, but I’m not.)

There’s also the rampant gay panic in the film, which makes sense given when this film was released. It was released in 1989 and at that time we were still thinking of AIDS, which was fairly new at this time, as being a “gay disease.” This is similar to the attitudes expressed in Myra Breckinridge and Mrs. Doubtfire. The problem is this feels more like a bad farce plot point with a mistaken identity since Randy tells his dad he’s staying over with a guy and a Italian man drops off a suit for Randy with a note from Alex. This then leads to Joe talking to Harry Bruckner (Vic Tayback, who I mistook for Robert Loggia) about how his son couldn’t be a “fruit”–the film’s word, not mine–because just look at these pictures of his son playing sports. In fact, this film does have this idea that gay men can’t be interested in sports because later Joe asks Randy if he wants to toss the ball around.

In fact the film in general feels like a bad farce. There’s a lot of sneaking around, mistaken identities, misunderstood comments–such as Diane (Kate Jackson) thinking Joe is having an affair because she hears some noise and her husband simply tells her, “Oh those are just some hookers.” There’s a huge climax where the husbands of the women hiring Randy try to find him, only to beat up Randy’s pimp because the man actually being hired by their wives couldn’t be the guy they’re looking for because Harry has been told he’s gay. This, by the way, happens around the time Randy almost has sex with his mom, who has gotten her son’s number from her doctor (Kirstie Alley), who hired him.

But none of this is enjoyable partly because it has a really young Patrick Dempsey who looks barely legal in the lead role. Even if you bumped up the age, it would be a slog because a huge part of it is made up of montages of Randy dancing and doing things that aren’t having sex. At least Catch Hell, which had some problematic issues, was made enjoyable by watching Ian Barford chew scenery. Even Myra Breckinridge is more enjoyable than this because Myra Breckinridge is like watching two cars hit each other, leading to a pile up before being hit by a train.

This is an inherently disgusting concept at almost all areas. The only way this could possibly be worth watch is if it was a guy in his 20s or 30s and does not look like he just hit the age of consent, who becomes a gigolo voluntarily after his girlfriend leaves him and he learns how to be a better lover in the process, but I pretty much just described the film My Awkward Sexual Adventure, except for the male sex worker part. (Also, My Awkward Sexual Adventure is a much better movie.) With the rest of the movies I’ve written about, I can see why they were released, but I don’t know who thought this movie was a good idea.

And I really could have used that condom scene.

I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Mystic Pizza”

Thanks to Meghan-Annette for suggesting this film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!”

I have a confession to make: I’ve never watched “Mystic Pizza” before now. It’s one of those girl things I hadn’t partaken in like manicures with your BFF or synchronized periods. My main point of reference for this movie was an episode of “30 Rock” where Jenna Maroney is in “Mystic Pizza: The Musical.” I knew Julia Roberts was in it and there was some pizza involved, but that was about it. To be honest, for the longest time I thought it was a movie about an interstellar pizzeria, which would be a pretty great movie.

“Mystic Pizza” is about three friends–Kat Arujo (Annabeth Gish), Daisy Arujo (Julia Roberts) and Jojo Barbosa (Lili Taylor)–who work at Mystic Pizza in the small town of Mystic, Connecticut. The film follows the three of them as they navigate romance and balance it with tensions arising between them, their lovers, family and friends. Kat babysits for Tim (William R. Moses), a married older man she finds herself falling for before heading off to Yale to become an astronomer. Daisy meets Charles Gordon Windsor, Jr. at a bar and they hit it off instantly, but the class difference could pose a problem. Meanwhile, Jojo has been dating Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio? Vincent D’Onofrio.) for a while and wants to have sex with him, but Bill wants to get married before they have sex.

It’s clear to me having watched this movie why it’s kind of a beloved film from the ’80s. It’s a nice cozy film about three young women on the verge of really starting their lives, fighting over relationships and being there to console each other when things go wrong and they feel betrayed. It’s the type of movie focusing on things many women have been through and seems like the type of movie many women would watch as a double feature with “Dirty Dancing”*.

The thing about “Mystic Pizza” is it’s a nice movie that feels like comfort food, but there’s nothing stunning or horrible about the film. The only thing I can fault the film for is that I only really care for Daisy, because Kat’s affair with Tim is doomed from the start and Jojo has serious boundary issues. Yes, it is kind of dickish that Bill renamed the fishing boat he works on the Nympho after you, but you are sex crazed and really need a good lesson on consent because Bill really doesn’t want to have sex, so stop it. Everything in the scene where Bill is telling Jojo he doesn’t want to have sex, but she has his pants pulled down around his ankles is so horribly gross and it’s deeply unfortunate the scene is played for laughs, but unfortunately this is the least harmful sexual assault to occur in any film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!”

The film features a terrific, nuanced performance from Julia Roberts that feels like a star-in-the-making performance, as well as a restrained performance from Vincent D’Onofrio. The movie also tackles class issues, which largely works well except in a scene where the audience is clobbered by the concept when Daisy has dinner with Charles’ family. The movie excels for being a movie about characters and exploring their problems instead of making it a problem about concepts, which some filmmakers and writers could do since it’s largely about working-class Portuguese-Americans.

Although “Mystic Pizza” isn’t a movie I would normally watch, it’s a movie that is well-made and one I can see many people being able to watch over and over. In the realm of “I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!” it’s certainly the best film I’ve watched so far, it’s just not a film I can enthusiastically recommend. But it would at least be a good movie to curl up on the couch with a friend and watch.

*I don’t know why people treat “Dirty Dancing” as a feel-good movie. It’s kind of sad and a huge plot point is someone needing an abortion. But Jerry Orbach is there and I remember that being a big draw for me when I was a kid.

I Can’t Believe I Just Watched This!: “Mrs. Doubtfire”

“Mrs. Doubtfire” is one of those movies my generation probably feels nostalgic for. It’s a Robin Williams comedy with three adorable children he’s fighting to keep. It’s one of those movie you have to rewatch for a nostalgia check, like a Disney cartoon you loved or “History of the World, Part One.” And, like movies you often watch for a nostalgia check, it doesn’t hold up to the fond memories.

Daniel Hillard (Williams) is a irresponsible father whose behavior has been continually annoying his wife, Miranda (Sally Field), until a raucous birthday party for their son, Chris (Matthew Lawrence), is the last straw. They divorce and Miranda is granted full custody of Chris, Lydia (Lisa Jakub) and Natalie (Mara Wilson). Daniel, desperate to spend more time with the kids, decides to answer an ad for a housekeeper and pose as kindly English lady Mrs. Doubtfire, with help from his brother, Frank (Harvey Fierstein). Meanwhile, Miranda reconnects with old friend Stuart (Pierce Brosnan), whom Daniel despises because he’s not over Miranda.

There are very clear problems with the comedy and jokes made in the script, largely because they haven’t aged well and are, quite frankly, very offensive. But the two biggest problems are with the protagonist, Daniel, and the length of the film.

First I’ll get to the length of the film. “Mrs. Doubtfire” is more than two hours long and there’s a lot that could have been cut out. At this point I want to already penalize any film longer than “Myra Breckinridge” because one of the few things that film has going for it is it’s only 94 minutes long. There are giant portions of the film that exist for very trivial reasons. There’s an overly long bit of the film where Williams does a bunch of voices for a social worker. There’s a montage of Williams doing things as Mrs. Doubtfire with the kids, set to “Dude Looks Like a Lady” that feels unnecessary. There’s an entire scene with the social worker that plays like a bad farce that goes on for too long and feels horribly contrived. If you cut those scenes out, I feel fairly confident the film would be under two hours in length.

It also suffers from odd pacing. Although it’s understandable the film needs to set up the ending, everything in this film takes place in the last 45 minutes. Ultimately, very little happens in the first 75 minutes other than a lot of shenanigans with the occasional plot point. As a result the film is a slog until this sudden shot of frantic energy is injected right at the end for the climax.

But really, the core problem with this film is Daniel Hillard. It is entirely likely I will not watch a film for “I Can’t Believe I Just Watch This!” with a character as eminently punchable as Daniel Hillard. Tris was boring, Ryan Phillippe Regan Pierce a sad-sack, Riddick a fascinating mercernary and Myra Breckinridge an over-the-top caricature in a performance where more scenery is chewed than Ian Barford in “Catch Hell.” Daniel Hillard is a jag bag who is thoroughly unlikable. He takes advantage of so many people in the movie, including his brother, the make-up artist, who helps him get the mask and look of Mrs. Doubtfire, but they first have to do a crazy montage–which could have also been cut–even though Daniel has already established Mrs. Doubtfire will be a kindly, elderly British woman. He becomes belligerent to his wife and then wonders why she doesn’t want him spending time with the kids. And then, after it is revealed he has been posing as Mrs. Doubtfire, he gets mad at Miranda for him having to do supervised visits with the kids, once a week. You just committed fraud, broke the custody agreement and almost killed an old friend of Miranda’s. Do you wonder why you have to do supervised visits?

And although it’s nice, and honestly still a little progressive, for a film to have a male character who is crazy about the ex instead of a female character, the hatred Daniel feels towards Stuart is bizarre. Stuart is, ultimately, nothing but nice towards Mrs. Doubtfire, even if a comment is made about her accent. Daniel responds by telling his children, while Mrs. Doubtfire, that, oh, Stuart had liposuction. Then Daniel has to do a walk-by fruiting–which would be a great name for a gay street gang–and assault Stuart with a lime. Finally, he tries to sabotage a romantic relationship between Stuart and Miranda by telling Stuart Miranda has crabs and then putting pepper, which Stuart is allergic to, in his jambalaya.

(By the way, this is a film released in the 1993 when people treated allergies as an incredibly serious issue. It’s not like now where you say, “Oh I have a food allergy” and people scoff at you because of pseudoscience blogs saying, “Say you have an allergy so you can avoid this food I told you is evil” and give you food with those ingredients all the time. Why is Daniel shocked by Stuart’s reaction to the pepper?)

The biggest problem with the film is a lot of the humor now feels incredibly dated and very offensive. It’s not just humor you really can’t get away with now–like half of the jokes in “Blazing Saddles”–it’s humor that is in poor taste. The premise of the film involves a man who cross-dresses to be close to his kids. That’s fine. There are plenty of perfectly good movies involving drag and cross-dressing. One of those films even has Robin Williams. But there’s rampant jokes that at worst come off as transphobic, such as one of the fake nannies Williams poses as before calling as Mrs. Doubtfire being a Russian woman saying she doesn’t work with male children because “she used to be [male].” First of all, what the hell is with that line? Is this going back to some bizarre stereotype transgender women are crazed misandrists a la Myra Breckinridge? Second of all, the joke reads as, “Oh, ha ha, someone who used to be male is a woman and would consider being a nanny.” What? It’s cringeworthy and, in a lengthy montage of oddballs Williams creates to answer the ad, is something that would have been better left on the cutting room floor.

There’s also a bunch of other bizarre moments of “Oh, ha ha, a man in a dress” or jokes are made regarding gender expression and identity that simply don’t land. This includes moments like Frank expressing joy when Daniel arrives asking to look like a man, which does feel like a joke and it only really works because of Fierstein’s delivery. The bus driver at one point sees Daniel’s hairy leg under his Mrs. Doubtfire outfit, which leads to a very creepy come-on from a driver. And why don’t any of the passenger’s yell, “Hey bub, I got a kid with a fever and I need to get home. Get moving”? I want to yell that at a bus driver when they wait even 30 seconds before moving from a bus stop.

One scene that has an incredibly uncomfortable feel now is when Chris sees Daniel peeing, standing up, while dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. He runs into Lydia’s room and tells her to call the police because Mrs. Doubtfire has a penis. At this point, they find out Mrs. Doubtfire is their father, but it’s very uncomfortable to know that today there are thousands of transgender women who could face serious problems if that situation happened in real life. Here it’s meant as a humorous moment, complete with a son horrifically saying, “I saw everything” about his dad’s junk.

The film also features the Standard Butch-Femme ’90s Gay Couple and an odd joke about how many British Pakistanis there are in London, coming in the form of a puppet on the TV show at the end of the film saying people in England speak Pakistani. Normally, I would angrily point out people in Pakistan speak English and Urdu, but this film has managed to drain me of my outrage over art.

What the film has going for it is Chris Columbus did a nice job directing the film. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but there’s nothing incredibly bad. It’s just nice. What he does manage to do is get fantastic performances from the actors, right down to an adorable Wilson. It keeps the film from being incredibly painful to watch, it just is a film that fails to entertain.

It’s not surprising this is a film that managed to be incredibly successful and a beloved family movie. When it was released it was during the fury of films with transphobia–“Silence of the Lambs,” “The Crying Game,” “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”–and this has a bittersweet story about family. But unfortunately the film’s most sympathetic characters are Miranda, the bread winner, and Stuart, the rich British man who adores Miranda and her children, taking them away from Daniel. As a result of bad writing and dated gender politics, “Mrs. Doubtfire” is a misfire on many levels, never reaching the level it could be with such a phenomenal cast.

(And I didn’t even get into how implausible this film is and all of the issues with reality. Really, those are minor quibbles compared to everything else in the film.)

Me, watching

Me, watching “Mrs. Doubtfire.”