November 29, 1993 12:00 PM

Robin Williams, Sally Field

May be in another age one wouldn’t worry about the mental-health implications of a scene in which a boy walks into the bathroom and discovers that his middle-aged nanny is actually his father in drag—but it’s not my fault Freud was born, is it? Mrs. Doubt/ire disposes of such issues as if they were so many Huggies: The boy cringes, a bit, but then all is well. That’s because this family-oriented comedy—directed by that expert in holiday custard, Chris Columbus (Home Alone)—is determined to be warmhearted and sweet, no matter how recklessly implausible it has to be.

Williams, an underemployed (and newly divorced) actor, disguises himself as housekeeping marvel “Mrs. Doubtfire” in order to stay near his three children. But surely the ex-wife (Field) would find it peculiar that this warm, bosomy woman—who looks like George Bush pretending to be Barbara—is always leaning toward her and, in a sweetly flutey voice, making smutty comments.

If Williams were in control here, such behavior probably wouldn’t matter. But the performance seems forced. Maybe Williams is just tired of having to be endlessly, brilliantly, exhaustingly, hilariously entertaining, as if he were Zeus assuming the form of a mortal party guest. He does his usual range of voices, yes, and impersonations, and fires off a rat-a-tat stream of wisecracks. Much of this is funny. For all that, he never completely breathes life into his Mrs. Doubtfire. She’s never a character in her own right—the way Dustin Hoffman’s “Dorothy” was, in 1982’s Tootsie—and she has to be for the movie to work. You’re always aware of Williams’s piercing blue eyes peeping out from the Latex. From time to time they seem to be signaling, “Help,” (PG-13)

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