The happy but silly Rex Harrison musical DOCTOR DOLITTLE has been
remade into half of a good movie, albeit without any songs.
The new movie's menagerie of talking animals, while not exactly BABE
cute, are quite funny. If the animals could have just eaten all of the
humans in the beginning, the animals could have starred in a first-rate
production. The terminally boring humans with their dismal lines and
their lethargic acting kill an otherwise promising picture.
It all starts with the young John Dolittle conversing with his dog. His
father, played by Ossie Davis, sends the dog away and bans further
John grows up to be a father and a human doctor. One day a bump on the
head revives his old communication skills. Soon cacophonies of talking
animals are making his life miserable. Once they hear about him, they
turn his home into a veritable Noah's Ark. He becomes a self-taught vet
to help his new furry and feathered friends.
When the animals talk, prepare to laugh. (And conversely when humans
speak get ready to catch up on your sleep.)
Sometimes the humor is directed only at the adults as when one dog in
the pound confesses, "I am Keyser Soze."
At the vet's office a mutt drags his heels on the way to an undesired
surgery. "Please don't fix me," he whines. "I won't look at another
girl ever. I swear." He stops his oration briefly to check out a cute
pooch that goes sauntering through the office.
The animals are good at physical comedy as well. When the vet gets a
thermometer stuck up Dr. Dolittle's dog, Lucky (voiced by Norm
Macdonald), watch how effectively and humorously Lucky can illustrate
his discomfort by scrooching up his rear.
Another dog suffers from obsessive compulsive behavior. Jumping like a
perpetual motion machine, he keeps demanding with a hyperactive
cadence, "Throw me the ball; throw me the ball."
The guinea pig named Rodney (voiced by Chris Rock) is arguably the
cutest animal after Lucky. Albert Brooks, last seen as a white-collar
criminal in OUT OF SIGHT, shows up as a serious tiger with a bad blood
The movie's jokes contain so much crude and sexual humor that the
filmmakers appear to be targeting an audience just a year or two shy of
teenagehood, but the animal antics seem aimed more at the kindergarten
and younger grade school set.
The one-joke movie wears out its welcome quickly. There are many
laughs, but there would have been a lot more if we could have gotten
rid of those abysmal humans.
DOCTOR DOLITTLE runs 1:25. It is rated PG-13 for profanity and crude
humor and would be fine for kids around nine and up.
My son Jeffrey, age 9, laughed long and hard during the movie. He gave
it **** and said his favorites were the guinea pig and Lucky.
Copyright © 1998 Steve Rhodes