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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Edward Johnson-Ott review follows video review
2.  Harvey Karten read the review ---
3.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie review
4.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie review
5.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie review
6.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review
7.  David Wilcock read the review video review

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
½ star out of 4

Doctor Dolittle should have become a proctologist. Then he'd have been better prepared for the unrelenting onslaught of scatological humor in this crappy comedy. There's nothing wrong with a gross-out joke and "Doctor Dolittle" has quite a few funny ones, but the film's unrelenting barrage of butt, rectal and poop humor quickly becomes tiresome, and eventually flat-out annoying. Is this really the best these guys could do with the concept?

Related to Hugh Lofting's children stories and the 1967 Rex Harrison film in name only, this "Doctor Dolittle" begins with a pup (Ellen Degeneres) explaining to young John Dolittle that dogs sniff each others rears as a way of saying hello. When the boy emulates the behavior and takes a whiff of the new minister's ass, it's off to the pound for Ellen, while John's father (Ozzie Davis) calls in an exorcist to rid the boy of his ability to talk to the animals.

Cut to the present, where the adult John (Eddie Murphy) is a successful doctor so caught up in his work that he neglects his family. Although his partners are excited that their thriving practice is about to be snapped up by an HMO, John has lost his enthusiasm for practicing medicine. Things change when he whacks his head in an auto mishap and his gift returns. To his amazement, John hears the dog he struck call him "bonehead."

Of course, John and Lucky (Norm Macdonald), the recovering mutt, become pals. Soon after, the doc treats a wounded owl and word spreads through the animal kingdom about the doctor who can talk with the animals. John adjusts to the situation and finds his love of healing renewed, although his co-workers and family fear he's lost his mind.

That's certainly a sturdy enough framework for a comedy, had the writers stretched their imaginations a bit. If you take a couple minutes right now, I guarantee you'll come up with at least a dozen gags more inventive than those that appear in this film. After viewing "Doctor Dolittle," it's easy to imagine the producers strapping writers Nat Mauldin and Larry Levin in chairs facing a wall covered with photos of various animals' posteriors and saying "Create!" From pigeon poop gags to a long scene involving the retrieval of a thermometer from Lucky's rectum, it's obvious that Mauldin and Levin spent considerable time sniffing butts in preparation for their work.

Despite the repetitive theme, a number of the jokes are funny and several of the actor's providing the animal voices do fine work. Norm Macdonald is quite likable as the sarcastic Lucky. If only he had been this engaging in "Dirty Work," his own recent comedy misfire. Garry Shandling and Julie Kavner are funny as squabbling pigeons and Albert Brooks contributes a sympathetic performance as a sick tiger. Look for quick, but cute, voice work from Paul Reubens as a raccoon, and Gilbert Gottfried as an obsessive-compulsive dog. On the other side of the coin, Chris Rock is just loud and irritating as a guinea pig with attitude.

And then there's Eddie Murphy. In a lapse of judgment more annoying than the potty-humor fixation, Murphy is cast in a role where he has little to do but react, wasting the actor's comedic skills. Noticing that their star has nothing to do, the desperate writers insert a mawkish subplot in order to give Eddie the chance to deliver a heartfelt speech or two. It doesn't help.

Despite a few good scenes, "Doctor Dolittle" is a drag, a phenomenal waste of a good concept and a talented actor. How did such a misfire occur? My theory is that someone told the writers that they should create a film like "that charming comedy about a pig." Then, in doing research, they made the fatal mistake of studying "Porky's" instead of "Babe."

Copyright 1998 Edward Johnson-Ott

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