Top positive review
vastly superior to the sequel, IMHO
on March 28, 2002
Like a lot of people who believe themselves to be worldly, I put my little barriers up when I encounter a film like "Dr. Dolittle". When you think of yourself as a sophisticate, it's hard to reach the child within. You hope the kid left long ago.
The truth is that few people grow up entirely. Halfway through this movie, I threw in the towel and decided to admit I was enjoying this adolescent gem. It's infectious.
Eddie Murphy's Dr. Dolittle is not recognizable as the character in the Hugh Loftis book. He's been totally updated. The only element left from the novel is Dolittle's ability to talk to animals. He understands them. They converse. Thankfully they do not sing, as they did in the dreadful Rex Harrison musical comedy thirty years ago. That film lost a fortune for Fox Studio. At this late date, Mr. Murphy and friends seem to have recovered its money.
It may seem like a gift to be able to communicate with guinea pigs, owls, dogs, pigs, pigeons and other creatures. This gift could be a one-way ticket to the funny farm, which is the problem Dolittle faces.
One of the best things about "Dr. Dolittle" is that it's short. The producers were wise enough to get in and out before the audience realized this was basically a one joke, one special effect story.
Murphy seems to have undergone a personal transformation in the last few years. Now he is completely at ease and in control in gentle comedies like this and "The Nutty Professor", just as he was in the sexy and crime-driven vehicles that made him a movie star in the 1980s.
It was bathroom humor that earned this picture a PG-13 rating. It may have deserved it, but kids seem to learn this stuff younger these days. Maybe they are just more open than my generation was. This touch of crudeness helps "Dr. Dolittle" to work. Full of smart remarks, these animals are survivors. They are also endearing. They assure that the movie never becomes sickeningly sweet. Besides, nobody expects Eddie Murphy to give up his bad boy image completely.
One element I found interesting is that, despite all the advances in digital special effects, when you see a lot of animals talking on screen, it doesn't look any more real than it did in the days of Francis the Talking Mule. It just cost ten times as much to create the effect.