Monday, January 15, 2007

Movie Review: Dr. Dolittle 3 Stars

Dr. Dolittle is a family film the kids will love.

To avoid hitting a dog, Dr. John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) banks his car on the shoulder and smacks his head on the windshield. The bump on his noggin stimulates his ability to communicate with animals, a gift he suppressed long ago when he left childhood behind. Soon, his clinic becomes a mecca for animals with all kinds of ailments, physical and psychological.

I really dug the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy, so I went into Dr. Dolittle with relatively high hopes. I knew it would be nothing like the 1967 Anthony Newley-Leslie Bricusse musical adaptation of the Hugh Lofting novel, which bordered on psychedelia and featured Rex Harrison as the freakish doctor with the ability to converse in 498 animal dialects.

I figured this update wouldn’t be that bad, and could in fact be surprisingly good. Dr. Dolittle has all the necessary ingredients with director Betty Thomas at the helm, the vastly talented Eddie Murphy in the lead role and a supporting cast that includes Ossie Davis, Oliver Platt, Peter Boyle, Jeffrey Tambor and several outstanding comic actors as the voices of animals the doctor talks to.

Unfortunately, while there are several hilariously funny moments, Dr. Dolittle mostly falls short of the mark. But the fabulous animals -- animatronic puppets created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and voiced of Norm MacDonald, Albert Brooks, Garry Shandling, Gilbert Gottfried, John Leguizamo and Chris Rock -- make the movie watchable, providing the funniest bits.

But what do I know? This is a movie for the kids.

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