Talented physician Dr John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) allows his medical practice to take
priority over his wife and daughters, until he barely misses hitting a stray dog driving
home. This incident reawakens a long-suppressed talent he possessed as a child – the
ability to talk to the animals. Every member of the animal kingdom is desperately seeking
his advice and medical attention, while his two partners prepare to sell out their medical
practice to a huge health care conglomerate for a healthy profit.
"Few films of recent memory are more misguided than this appalling film that
purports to be based on the classic novels of Hugh Lofting. The idea of contemporising
classic literature will always be doomed to fail, such as the recent Great Expectations.
Thirty years ago, critics complained how miscast Rex Harrison was as the singing doctor
who could talk to the animals, but be that as it may, the film at least succeeded in
capturing the essence of the stories, stories that were so inherently British. This time
around, the film makers decided on a so-so director to bring a hip Dolittle to the screen,
with a menagerie of wisecracking animals whose primary function is to show us all how
clever film technology has become. The beauty of the original film, however, and Lofting's
wonderful novels, was that Dolittle was able to communicate with the animals in their own
language; he wasn't hearing them speak in fluid, articulate, American slang. Dr Dolittle
is a film which has turned quaint literary whimsy into vulgar Hollywood. Murphy, a once
original comic master, is now bespectacled, conservative, and not only misses the mark as
this character, but he's not even mildly amusing. He delivers a cumbersome performance
that lacks any sense of vision or clarity. His nineties counterpart, so called, is one
Chris Rock [about to be seen in Lethal Weapon 4). Here, he voices the role of a guinea
pig, and one can only imagine that Rock's blustering verbosity was funny to him, but the
rest of us want to simply strangle both animal and vocal 'talent'. Add to that a dumb
script and the unimaginative, dull direction of Betty Thomas, and one ends up with a total
misfire. Not even the talents of Aussie cinematographer Russell Boyd can save this film.
Will Hollywood never learn?"
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We welcome Brad to Urban Cinefile as a contributor.
Brad is a Sydney-based freelance writer. He regularly contributes arts & fashion
articles to Cafe Society magazine, and does a large amount of work as a copywriter for
clients within the entertainment industry. Brad is also an experienced music producer &
is a director of new production house/ record label— Feature Music.
DOCTOR DOLITTLE (PG)
CAST: Eddie Murphy, Ossie Davis, Oliver Pratt
DIRECTOR: Betty Thomas
PRODUCER: John Davis, David T. Friendly, Joseph Singer
SCRIPT: Nat Mauldin, Larry Levin, Neal Jiminez, Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Manzel
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russell Boyd
EDITOR: Peter Teschner
MUSIC: Richard Gibbs
PRODUCTION DESIGN: William A. Elliott
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 2, 1998
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
VIDEO RELEASE: September 29, 1999