This is the second in a no-doubt long series of Eddie Murphy
remakes that remove the essence of the original in favor of fart and poop
jokes. Over the course of DR. DOLITTLE, you'll see Murphy give
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a rat, a thermometer get lost up a dog's
butt and two pigeons take a crap in Oliver Platt's mouth. If the thought
of any of this appeals to you, I'm sure there's an opening for an
overnight janitor to clean toilets at the local bus depot.
Murphy plays a good-natured physician who doesn't like animals. We
learn why in the movie's prologue, when little Eddie has a conversation
with the family dog (voice of Ellen DeGeneres), who tells him sniffing
butts is just another way of shaking hands. (If that's true, I'm glad I
never witnessed the first meeting of DeGeneres and Anne Heche.) Upon
seeing a demonstration of this, Eddie's dad (Ossie Davis) brings in an
exorcist to remove the foul spirit of animal communication from his young
son, or something like that.
Flashforward about thirty years. Murphy has his practice, a gorgeous
wife (GIRL 6's Kristen Wilson) and two daughters (one of which is Raven
Symone from "The Cosby Show"). At work, there's talk of selling out to an
HMO, and colleague Platt is all over the idea. One look and it's obvious
Platt will be the greedy bastard figure in DR. DOLITTLE. Considering how
pissed off people are at HMOs, the filmmakers probably expected audiences
to erupt in applause at the climactic mouth-crap scene, but not me.
The fun starts one day as Murphy hits a dog (which is a lot of fun
in itself) and the dog calls him a bonehead in Norm Macdonald's voice.
Then the pet hamster starts talking to him with Chris Rock's voice and all
hell breaks loose. Murphy is one with the animals and the animals are
stand-up comics, so break out the comedy set-pieces. Things like the
thermometer scene, Murphy pulling a stick out of an owl's wing and playing
therapist to two dysfunctional pigeons, one voiced by Julie Kavner.
No one reacts all that well to Murphy's rapport with the animals. He
ends up in a mental hospital after trying to help a suicidal tiger (Albert
Brooks) who eventually supplies the movie's climax. It happens to be just
as childish and unbelievable as the rest of the movie. Don't get me wrong;
there are some funny moments in DR. DOLITTLE. The fact that the Macdonald
dog is onscreen for at least half of the movie is a definite plus. Since
Murphy is basically a straight man here, Macdonald and Brooks provide most
of the laughs, although both are in better movies right now (DIRTY WORK
and OUT OF SIGHT, respectively).
If you're trying to decide whether to see DR. DOLITTLE, let me put
it this way -- it's a step down from THE NUTTY PROFESSOR.
Copyright © 1998 Andrew Hicks