Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dr Dolittle (1998) Film Review
Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray
After Babe, it's a risky business making talking animal pictures. Nothing can quite compare. Dr Dolittle certainly doesn't. Wise-cracking rats (John Leguizamo and Reni Santoni on vocals) and a sick tiger (Albert Brooks) are characters from a Disney cartoon. Lucky (Norm MacDonald), the dog, is like a buddy - man to man stuff.
The doc (Eddie Murphy) has had a gift for pooch parlance since he was a kid. He learnt to shut up and repress it, since it got him into too much trouble. John Dolittle grew up to become a doctor, live in the 'burbs, with a wife and 2.4 children, and pretend that animal chatter was a pre-adolescent blip on an otherwise faultless progression to a neat address on the white side of town.
At the practice, his colleagues talk of nothing but money. A business conglomerate is negotiating a buyout, which will mean redundancies and a probable drop in standards - classic market place search-and-destroy. Dr Weller (Oliver Platt) represents the greed element on the home team. He's a one-joke character. Sign the papers, John, take the cash, be richer. John's more interested in the quality of service and whether Mrs Parkus has eaten shellfish again, silly cow.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the animals start moving in and giving him a hard time. They can't keep their traps shut. And he's listening. He saves Lucky from the dog pound, brings one of the rats into surgery with a life-threatening bowel blockage and hears that the circus tiger's seeing triple and suffering jumbo migranes (diagnosis: brain tumour). Naturally, Weller and the whitecoats are worried that their possible future bosses will get wind of Dolittle's veterinary sideline and cancel the offer.
Scriptwriters Nat Mauldin and Larry Levin lack vision to lift the movie out of TV sitcomland. The effects are fruitful and Murphy is especially good attempting to deny his gift (at first). He is less manic than usual and keeps trademark face-pulls down to a minimum. As an actor, who doesn't like animals, working with computer generated co-stars, he can only be congratulated for a thoroughly professional job. It is a pity that the film offers nothing original and wastes the fine talents of Mr Ossie Davis, as John Dolittle Snr.Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001