[Screen It]


(1998) (Eddie Murphy, voice of Norm MacDonald) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
*Mild *Mild Minor Minor None
Mild None Minor Minor Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
*Mild None Minor Minor Minor

Comedy: A doctor suddenly regains his long repressed childhood gift that enables him to converse with animals.
Dr. John Dolittle (EDDIE MURPHY) is a successful physician with a burgeoning career and a happy family life. When not spending time with his wife, Lisa (KRISTEN WILSON), and daughters Maya (KYLA PRATT) and Charisse (RAVEN-SYMONE), he's working with his partners and fellow physicians, Dr. Mark Weller (OLIVER PLATT) and Dr. Gene Reiss (RICHARD SCHIFF).

A minor traffic accident, however, results in Dolittle bumping his head that suddenly resurrects his childhood gift of being able to converse with animals, an ability that was repressed following efforts by his father, Archer (OSSIE DAVIS), to stop it. Freaked out by this new ability, Dolittle worries that he may be going insane, especially when Lucky, a stray dog (voice of NORM MACDONALD) and the family's pet guinea pig (voice of CHRIS ROCK) won't stop talking to him. Word quickly spreads through the animal kingdom that there's a human doctor who can talk to the animals, and a menagerie of critters suddenly descends upon Dolittle's home.

As the confused doc tries to figure out if he's losing his mind, he must also contend with his concerned family, anxious partners, and a host of other animals -- including a pair of wisecracking rats (voices of JOHN LEGUIZAMO & RENI SANTONI), a self-doubting pigeon (voice of GARY SHANDLING), an alcoholic monkey (voice of PHIL PROCTOR), and a suicidal tiger (voice of ALBERT BROOKS), all of whom want his medical help or advice.

If they're fans of Murphy ("The Nutty Professor") or of talking animal movies ("Babe"), it's a good bet they will.
For crude humor and language.
  • EDDIE MURPHY plays a doctor who -- after thinking he's losing his mind -- rediscovers the joys and gratitude of medically helping others.
  • OLIVER PLATT plays Dolittle's success-obsessed partner who briefly badmouths him and another partner.


    OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
    With the number of domesticated pets in the U.S. alone numbering more than one hundred million, it's no surprise that people love movies about animals. As a proud owner of a cat that holds the all-time record for most meows over any given recorded period (don't even try contesting that fact), I've often wondered what she's really saying (other than, "If only our roles were reversed and you had to eat the same slop day in and day out).

    That thought has obviously also crossed various filmmakers' minds through the years, and thus the existence of many talking animal movies and shows, including "Babe," "Mr. Ed," "Francis (The Talking Mule)," and of course, the original "Dr. Dolittle."

    Released in 1967, that G-rated film, which was based on the beloved "Doctor Dolittle Stories" by Hugh Lofting, starred Rex Harrison in the title role and recorded an amazing nine Oscar nominations (including Best Picture and it won two -- for Best Song and Best Special Effects). With the recent box office and critical success of "Babe" and the arrival of ever increasingly better special effects, it's not at all surprising that this "talk to the animals" story has been resurrected.

    As directed by Betty Thomas ("Private Parts," "The Brady Bunch Movie") and written by screenwriters Nat Mauldin ("The Preacher's Wife") and Larry Levin (a TV writer with credits on "Seinfeld," among other shows), this update features some funny material when the animals are on screen, but mostly falls flat when they're not.

    Eddie Murphy ("The Nutty Professor," "Trading Places") fills Harrison's shoes, but despite being a gifted and quite funny comedic actor, here he isn't given much to do other than react to all of the animal kingdom madness surrounding him. While he generates a few laughs here and there and delivers an enjoyable performance, you can't help but feel that his presence and comic potential are somewhat wasted in this mostly reactive, instead of proactive role.

    The rest of the human performances, including ones from Oliver Platt ("Bulworth") and Ossie Davis ("Get On The Bus"), are all one-dimensional, throw away roles that easily could have been played by anyone and are used just as filler, instead of well-written comic potential.

    The real stars, of course, are the animals, and more importantly, the talented voices behind them. Featuring okay, but not outstanding computer generated visual effects (and some animatronics from Jim Henson's Creature Shop) that enable the critters to "talk" (still coming a long way from the old peanut butter days of "Mr. Ed" -- a point actually discussed in this film), the clever lines coming from their mouths are what make the movie funny.

    While the comedic potential from the main plot line (a doctor is shocked to discover he can converse with animals) wears thin rather quickly, and the remaining subplots (the doc's partners worry that they'll lose their buyer) completely strike out, the funny dialogue delivered by the animals keeps things lively and humorous.

    Perfectly matching the vocal talents and their publicly perceived characteristics and idiosyncrasies to the animals they play, Thomas and her crew get high marks for their brilliant casting and cleverly written dialogue. Albert Brooks ("Mother") gets to play the nervous and pacing tiger, Norm MacDonald ("Dirty Work") voices the wisecracking but scruffy mutt, and Gary Shandling (HBO's "The Larry Sanders Show") plays the self-doubting and insecure pigeon. The best efforts, however, come from a pair of rats (one voiced by John Leguizamo) and the family's pet guinea pig that's voiced by a hyped up Chris Rock (a perfect voice for a scampering, fast chewing little critter).

    It's just too bad that the filmmakers didn't pay as much attention to the rest of the script. The moments with those animal characters and others are often quite funny, but they can't stay on the screen all of the time. Other than some early humorous material (with Dolittle as a child and some later family moments), the movie falls flat when the animals are absent. In addition, while the sugary sweet message of rediscovering oneself and doing what makes you feel happy isn't horribly overbearing, that fact that it dominates the picture's second half and dampens the comedy is clearly obvious by the lack of audience laughter, especially when compared to the earlier material.

    Not terrible, but certainly not as good as I imagined it would be, this film should entertain audiences looking for a more racy version of "Babe" (if such an audience actually exists). I don't know how my cat would rate the movie (I'm sure she's trying to tell me right now in cat talk), but we give the occasionally funny "Dr. Dolittle" just a 5 out of 10.

    Some crude scatological humor and a few sexual remarks are just edgy enough to push this film into the PG-13 rating. A few jokes are made regarding a vet using a rectal thermometer on a dog, and other similar humor occurs elsewhere in the film as well. A few, mostly mild, sexual comments also occur, but aren't really that racy and will probably go over most younger kids' heads.

    Beyond that, some mild profanity occurs (with one questionable, and double meaning use of a word for both felines and a female body part being the worst), but the remaining categories are void of major objectionable material. Even so, and since many kids will probably want to see this film, you may want to take a closer look at the content.

  • Believing that he's hallucinating (from hearing a dog talk to him), Dolittle comments to himself about some guys in a dorm room saying that stuff they did (presumably drugs) wouldn't affect him years later.
  • We see a little monkey carrying a little bottle of liquor and learn that he's got a drinking problem (and see Dolittle giving him sobriety tests -- all played for laughs).
  • People have drinks at a press conference.
  • Although neither bloody nor gory, we do see a woman whose face is quite swollen (from eating shellfish).
  • Some scatological humor occurs during the film. The little guinea pig tells Dolittle, "You scared the crap out of me. See? There it is" (we don't see anything). In another scene, a vet uses a rectal thermometer on Lucky, and many jokes are made about that and it slipping inside the dog's body, and how then to get it back out (and includes a farting sound). Later, we hear some farting sounds from a rat. Finally, some pigeons poop on two men's heads (with one partially hitting the man's mouth).
  • Some viewers may not appreciate a scene (played for laughs) when a priest comes to exorcize the "talk to the animal demons" from the young Dolittle.
  • Dolittle's partner, Weller, has a little of both for badmouthing both Dolittle and their other partner to an investor.
  • Younger kids may be upset when it appears that Dolittle has accidentally run over Lucky, but we see that the dog is okay.
  • Likewise, a scene where Dolittle operates on a tiger and they state that they're losing him (accompanied by just a bit of suspenseful music) may unsettle some younger viewers.
  • None.
  • Due to crowd noise, more than the following might have occurred during the movie:
  • Phrases: "Wise ass," "Smart ass," "Bone head," "Nuts" (for crazy, and also as a double meaning for testicles and the stuff that falls from trees regarding some squirrels), "Shut up," "Idiot," "Butt head," "Fart" and "Freakin'."
  • As a boy (and after learning that dog's stiff other dogs as a way of saying hello), Dolittle doesn't shake a man's hand, but instead goes around behind him and sniffs.
  • None.
  • A few scenes have a bit of suspenseful and comically tense music in them.
  • Sensing a possible romantic encounter between Dolittle and his wife, the little guinea pig starts singing, "Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight..."
  • Due to crowd noise, more than the following might have occurred during the movie.
  • At least 1 use of a slang term for female genitals (the "p" word, but used toward a tiger in a double meaning), 7 asses, 6 hells, 1 damn, 1 crap, and 5 uses of "Oh my God," 2 of "Jesus" and 1 use each of "Swear To God," "Oh Jesus," "Oh God," "Oh my Lord," "My God," and "Good Lord" as exclamations.
  • Due to crowd noise, more than the following might have occurred during the movie. In addition, some may view the following as worse than mild (especially if they have younger kids with them -- but it's a judgement call).
  • Dolittle makes a comment about a younger doctor getting some "nooky" with female interns in the closet.
  • We see part of a woman's swollen rear end (or upper hip) as Dolittle prepares to give her a shot for her allergic reaction.
  • Feeling amorous, Dolittle asks his wife, "Is it okay if I wait in the bed naked?" but nothing ever happens. Later, however, when he asks himself what's going to happen (referring to his belief that he's going crazy), his wife overhears and misunderstands that and answers, "You'll be pleasantly surprised" (but again nothing happens).
  • Sensing a possible romantic encounter between Dolittle and his wife, the little guinea pig starts singing, "Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight..."
  • Ready for a possible romantic encounter, Dolittle gets out of bed to remove Lucky and close the door. Lucky then responds, "Oh yeah, it's fine when people watch us do it." He then makes a comment about a "new position." Noting that his wife is curious about his behavior, Dolittle then comments "When I'm excited I make all kinds of sounds." She replies that he's never barked before.
  • A female pigeon makes a comment about her mate not being "able to perform" and him always staring at a robin's breast.
  • As a newborn alligator says "Mommy?" to Lucky, the dog comments, "Don't look at me...But there was that one time I got drunk in the Everglades..."
  • None.
  • One of Dolittle's daughters makes a comment to her grandfather that she knows her dad loves her, but doesn't think that he likes her (which is resolved in a later scene).
  • Dolittle is sent off to a mental institute, but little is made of this in terms of his family (ie. the kids asking what's wrong with their father).
  • What animals are really "saying" when they bark, meow, and make other sounds.
  • Dolittle accidentally drives over a sidewalk trash can to avoid hitting a dog.
  • Reiss purposefully opens a door into Weller, breaking his nose, after overhearing Weller badmouthing him.
  • Later, Reiss punches Weller in the face, knocking him out.

  • Reviewed June 23, 1998

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