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Dr. Dolittle

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Dr. Dolittle

Starring: Eddie Murphy, Ossie Davis
Director: Betty Thomas
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 85 Minutes
Release Date: June 1998
Genres: Comedy, Family

Review by Andrew Hicks
2 stars out of 4

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

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