December 03, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

Robin Williams as a divorced dad who infiltrates his own family by impersonating a frumpy Irish housekeeper: With a premise like that, could Mrs. Doubtfire be anything but flat-out hilarious? Yes and no. Williams gives an inspired comic performance. Unfortunately, he outclasses the movie, which is basically a patchwork rip-off of Tootsie. In his Doubtfire drag, Williams looks like the essence of stern grandmotherly dowdiness. From the start, though, there’s something teasingly off about this 60ish matron, who has a way of saying exactly what’s on her mind. For all of Williams’ devious wit, director Chris Columbus comes close to missing the joke of his own movie. He seems to think the funny part is the makeup, the broad comic spectacle of Robin Williams in drag. ( 198, Nov. 26) B -OG

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