If you're over the age of 30, you probably hear the name Dr. Dolittle and think of Rex Harrison and Anthony Newly, the giant pink sea snail, Sophie the seal and the Push-Me Pull-You. If you're under 30, maybe you've read the books, and maybe you've seen the movie, but chances are, unless you're the children of that over-30 and in-the-know crowd, you only know Dr. Dolittle by reputation: He's a man who can understand and talk to animals.
To be honest, that is the only similarity this movie has to either the original film or the books on which it says it is based (a friend scoffed openly when he saw the "Based on the Doctor Dolittle Stories by Hugh Lofting" in the opening credits). The name of the lead character is John Dolittle, yes. He can speak to animals and understand them when they speak to him, yes. But there the similarities end.
Now, don't get me wrong… this is a very enjoyable film. I'm still feeling the headache laughing that hard gave me as I write this, but if you're going into it with the mindset that will immediately compare it to the original, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Just like The Nutty Professor and Flubber, Hollywood seems engrossed in the idea of remaking all the classic Disney films of the 40's, 50's and 60's. The fact that the next movie to come out in this vein is The Parent Trap just proves that point.
Dr. Dolittle, played by Eddie Murphy, is a mid-30's doctor, married to a beautiful and understanding woman, Lisa, played by Kristen Wilson, and father of two kids; Maya (Kyla Pratt) and Charisse (Raven-Simone'). When he was a child, he spoke to animals naturally from the beginning, but due to a father who didn't know how to cope with his sons "Gift" and a rather traumatic remedy, he repressed his gift and any memory he had of it. A brush with hitting a dog and a slight knock on the head brings his "Gift" back into working order, and the fun begins from there.
The supporting cast of this movie is simply incredible! The bipedal supporting cast features such wonderful character actors as Jeffrey Tambor (The Larry Sanders Show), Oliver Platt (Porthos in Disney's Three Musketeers), and Peter Boyle as the head of a company attempting to buy out Doolittle's medicine practice. The voices supplied for the animals are nothing short of amazing: Chris Rock (Lethal Weapon 4) as the cloyingly peppy guinea pig Rodney, Garry Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) and Julie Kavner as a couple of pigeons in a troubled marriage, Jenna Elfman (Darma and Greg) as the owl who spreads the word about Dolittle's gift and Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) as a hungry racoon.
The best "animal" performance of the film has to go to Norm McDonald (formerly of Saturday Night Live fame) for his voicing of Lucky, who truly turns out to be at least one man's best friend. He is the dog that John Dolittle almost hits that signals the return of his lingual ability and the end of his normal life, and he is the dog that becomes his guide (this versions Polynesia, for those who remember the original) through the course of the film. McDonald is the perfect voice for the lines he was given… for example: Dr. D and his wife are getting ready to go to bed, and he has to shoo lucky out of the room. From behind the closed bedroom door, McDonald delivers "Fine. Do you think we care if anyone watches? Maybe I should turn the hose on you two. Hey, want me to show you a good position for that?"
All in all, this is an enjoyable family film. The running time is approximately one hour and fourty minutes, so long enough to get the theatre experience, but short enough for those little ones with attention spans the size of movie drink glasses. Fun, although nothing like the stories it's based from.
I give this film a B+. A good family film, with lots of good laughs for kids and parents alike.