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Review by Andrew Manning (6/98)

Release: 1998, 20th Century Fox
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Oliver Platt, Kristen Wilson, Richard Schiff
Starring: (voice talents) Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jenna Elfman, Dennis Franz, Gilbert Gottfried, Archie Hahn, Julie Kavner, John Leguizamo, Norm Macdonald, Paul Reubens, Ving Rhames, Chris Rock, Gary Shandling, Jean Stapleton
Director: Betty Thomas
MPAA Rating: [PG-13] language, sexuality
Genre: Comedy

He doesn't just talk to the animals...


A young boy with an affinity with animals grows into an adult (Murphy) who is surprised to find that the animals are now actually talking back to him.


A movie about talking animals? How funny can that be? Pretty damned funny, as it turns out. Dr. Dolittle has assembled one hell of a comedic cast. You might not realize it, though, because they're all present in voice only. Some stand out stand-ups: Chris Rock is hilarious as a streetwise guinea pig, and seeing his wisecracking voice come out of a little ball of fuzz is worth the price of admission. Ellen DeGeneres, Gary Shandling, The Simpson's Julie Kavner, Gilbert Gottfried, and Paul Reubens also throw their distinct voices to provide some outstanding comedic cameos. Murphy also does well, but the focus is really the animals. Some innovative special effects bring them to life. There is a significant amount of crude humor abounding throughout.


Well, technically speaking, that crude humor might prove to be a problem with much of the audience. Like Murphy's last hit, The Nutty Professor, this latest endeavor passes itself off as a family comedy, yet actually falls far from that mark. The film is filled with more crude remarks and sexual innuendoes than might be appropriate for very young children. I know a lot of parents who complained about The Nutty Professor, and I suspect they wouldn't settle for Dolittle, either.

Herein lies the problem. Because children will comprise a good portion of the target audience, Dolittle does tone itself down a bit. Chris Rock, for example, won't be doing the same bit here that he did on the recent Comic Relief 8. As such, the movie ends up in that grey area of trying to satisfy too many people at once, and in the end, it gets shorted on both sides: too suggestive for children, yet not uninhibited enough for adults.

While this film is an entertaining enough comedy thanks to its vast pool of ensemble talent, most of the material fails to live up to the best work of its comics. Dolittle can best be described as a weak story that pieces together a string of funny stand-up routines.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)

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