Doctor Dolittle Betty Thomas directs and Eddie Murphy stars in Doctor Dolittle, the 1998 hit film which, while ostensibly aimed at children, has a high quotient of hip and even mildly gross humour. Murphy stars as John Dolittle, whom we see as a child talking to a neighbourhood dog who explains that the reason mutts sniff each others' butts is to assess their characters when first meeting them. Little John promptly tries this out on being introduced to his school principal. Warned off such social eccentricity, Dolittle stops talking to animals and as an adult becomes... a respectable doctor running his own medical practice--until a bump on the head revives his capacity to understand animals, whereupon mayhem, mortification and a menagerie of needy and freeloading creatures are heaped upon his ordered existence. Murphy plays it relatively straight. It's the animals, some of them vividly enhanced by Jim Henson's animating team, who provide the real laughs here, and a thoroughly worldly, wisecracking bunch of characters they prove to be. There's a couple of hard-boiled, squabbling rats, a pigeon who complains of impotence, Rocky the guinea pig (voiced by Chris Rock) with a neat line in hip backchat, while Albert Brooks voices the gruff, melancholy tiger whose life Dolittle must try to save. A sweet but by no means saccharine comedy. --David Stubbs Dr Dolittle 2It's only a marginal improvement, but Dr Dolittle 2 defies the odds by rising above its popular 1998 predecessor (and once again, let's not confuse these movies with the earlier Rex Harrison musical). Eddie Murphy plays the title role with ease and with the confident professionalism of a comedian who knows when to share the spotlight--especially when he's being upstaged by a bunch of animals who steal all the punch lines. And once again the film is aimed at a pre-teen audience: so many of those punch lines involve flatulence, bodily functions and frequent use of the word "butt". The difference this time is that Dr Dolittle has settled into his talk-to-the-animals routine; his 16-year-old daughter (Raven-Symone) is getting to be a feisty handful (it turns out she's coping with a hereditary gift); and his lawyer wife (Kristen Wilson) is representing him in a trial against corporate villains who want to clear-cut a local forest. Naturally, the local critter mafia (their Don is a beaver... fuggeddaboudit!) want Dolittle to fight for their cause, and this involves the successful mating of an endangered bear and a domesticated circus bear who's forgotten all the bear necessities of life in the wild. The bears are voiced by Lisa Kudrow and Steve Zahn and they almost steal the show, but the whole menagerie (with digitally animated "talking") is equally amusing. Adults might wish that the filmmakers had tried harder to make a truly memorable sequel, but this is a movie for kids, and they're going to love it without quibbling. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com [show more]
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A double-helping of Eddie Murphy talking to animals. In the first film (1998), an updating of the 1967 musical, a young boy John Dolittle finds he can talk to animals, but his disapproving father forces him to repress his gift. Now a doctor with a young family, John (Eddie Murphy) rediscovers his ability after accidentally running over a dog. He begins to communicate with animals again, and soon has a queue of ailing pets in his waiting room. However, John's colleagues, worried for his sanity, have him committed to an asylum. The sequel (2001) sees Dolittle (Murphy) having to save an endangered species, the Pacific Western Bear, and its natural habitat, a forest that is under threat from the lumber industry. The trouble is he only has three weeks to find a mate for the lone female of the species (voiced by Lisa Kudrow) left in the wild and the only candidate he can come up with is a performing bear (voiced by Steve Zahn) with a penchant for junk food. Not only has Dolittle got a massive task on his hands he also has to contend with the forest's animal version of the Mafia.