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SYNOPSIS: Doctor Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) has a thriving practice in San Francisco, treating both humans and animals. But a late night visit from a wise-guy racoon sees him meeting The Beaver, the Godfather of the forest. The Beaver has a major problem – a logging company is about to start clearing the forest. With the help of his lawyer wife Lisa (Kristen Wilson), the Doc takes on the loggers in court. The judge gives him a glimmer of hope. If the forest is home to a breeding pair of endangered Pacific Western bears, it can be saved. Trouble is there’s only one female bear Ava (voiced by Lisa Kudrow) in the forest. Dolittle must find her a mate – in the form of a pampered circus bear, Archie (voiced by Steve Zahn). But he only has 30 days to do it. Meanwhile, the logging company’s lawyer (Kevin Pollack) is working on a devious plan to lift the restraining order. While Dolittle has enough trouble turning Archie from a softie into a “he-bear”, his relationship with his daughter Charisse (Raven-Symone) is going through a rough patch too. 

Review by David Edwards:
The amiable Dr Dolittle returns in this pleasant but uninspiring movie. Director Steve Carr sticks solidly to the formula which proved so appealing in the original; wise cracks, cute talking animals and schmaltz.

Dr Dolittle 2 is a mish-mash of family movie, comedy, environmental message and courtroom drama that works sporadically. Its undemanding script is shamelessly geared to a “family audience” (read, kids); and the parade of talking animals and Murphy’s comic persona provide most of the laughs. 

The film’s best moments occur between Murphy and Steve Zahn (in the guise of Archie, the bear). The two display some fine comic timing, despite the obvious limitations. The other [human] actors get little scope to explore their characters. Raven-Symone gets the most scope, with her character at least having some development, while Kristen Wilson has a couple of fine moments as Lisa. Otherwise, the highlights come from the voice talent, including Lisa Kudrow as Ava, and Michael Rappaport as the mini-Mafioso raccoon.

Carr (who previously directed Friday and Next Friday) shows his pedigree quite clearly, trotting out one of the more off-colour jokes from his earlier films; but generally fails to mark this film with any distinctive style. The woodland settings are pleasant, but the contrast between the “actual” woods and the constructed studio sets is jarring.

Where Dr Dolittle 2 comes into its own though is in its striking technical prowess. The array of talking animals certainly exceeds that of the original film, and their computer-generated “talking” is a marvel in itself. The DVD package augments the experience nicely by including no less than four mini-documentaries on the disc. Of these, be sure to check out “Making Movie Magic with Rhythm and Hues”. This enlightening little add-on not only reveals the process of making the animals appear to talk, but how the filmmakers constructed many of the scenes in the movie. This is a terrific insight into both computer-assisted animation, and the filmmaking process itself. 

Another fine feature on the DVD is a mini-doco, ostensibly about the “making of” the film, but in reality an overview of Eddie Murphy’s career. This features some of the actor’s highlights from his days on Saturday Night Live to Bowfinger. Although it’s very much a thumbnail sketch, it’s a very worthwhile addition. Also included are two spots which appear to be TV programs; one highlighting how Tank, the bear who’s Archie in the movie, was trained, and the other basically a nature show about the grizzly bear. The latter is no doubt included for its educational value, but it drew comment from my 6 year old that it was “boring”. I guess education only goes so far with 6 year olds.

Dr Dolittle 2 is a prime example of a recent trend in DVDs, in which an ordinary film is elevated by superior extras on the disc. In this case, the film itself, while brilliant in its technical aspects and pleasant enough, is almost instantly forgettable. The additions on the disc however are exceptional.

Published March 13, 2002

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CAST: Eddie Murphy, Raven-Symone, Kevin Pollack, Kristen Wilson, Steve Zahn (voice), Lisa Kudrow (voice)

DIRECTOR: Steve Carr

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s commentary, “Making of” featurette, extended scenes, mini-documentaries “Bear Necessities: A Kids’ Guide to Grizzlies” and “Making Movie Magic with Rhythm and Hues” on the process of animating the animals, “Wild on the Set” TV show on Tank the Bear, movie trailer, bonus trailer “Ice Age”.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 13, 2002 


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