|Dr. Dolittle 2
In 1998, Eddie Murphy stepped into the character of Dr. John Dolittle,
a physician who regained his childhood ability to talk to and understand
animals. While that film (an updated spin on the stories by Hugh Lofting
that also served as the basis for the 1967 Rex Harrison vehicle of the
same name) had more than its share of jokes that involved bodily
functions and fluids, it was a genial and pleasant comedy. That same
infectious spirit inhabits the sequel the unimaginatively titled Dr. Dolittle 2,
which mixes low comedy with important messages about family and the
Narrated by the family dog Lucky (voiced by Norm Macdonald), the
film assumes that the audience is already familiar with the good doctor
and his family -- lawyer wife Lisa (Kristen Wilson) and daughters Charisse
(Raven-Symone) and Maya (Kyla Pratt). Because of his abilities, the good
doc has been traveling the world and neglecting his family. When he arrives
home from one of his jaunts, Dolittle discovers that his daughter Charisse
doesn't want to spend her 16th birthday with the family but instead
has made plans with her new boyfriend, pizza delivery boy Eric (Lil' Zane).
Of course, family plans go awry when Dolittle is summoned to meet with
the Godfather-like Beaver (voiced by Richard C. Sarafian) who asks for
the doctor's assistance in staving off a logging company from deforestation.
Reluctantly, Dolittle agrees to get involved and undertakes the challenge
of introducing Archie (voiced by Steve Zahn), a circus-trained Pacific
Western bear into the wild.
The bulk of the film's comedy stems from Dolittle's work with the
spoiled diva-like bear. While some of the jokes may seem predictable
and/or a bit vulgar (as in the 1998 film, there's a lot of bathroom and
low humor here), the overall result is an amusing film that children of
school age and up should appreciate. (Kids under six may be bored or
may have trouble following the story. One small child sitting near me
got so scared by one scene, she began to wail hysterically.)
Screenwriter Larry Levin (who worked on the 1998 version) has
added nice touches about the importance of communication in a familial
setting and the themes of preserving the natural habitats of wildlife are
of prime importance. Each is handled well and in a subtle and unobtrusive
manner by director Steve Carr.
Murphy does well enough as the beleaguered Dolittle and the
supporting cast of live actors all acquit themselves nicely. (Jeffrey Jones
and Kevin Pollak are the villains.) The voice talent adds considerably to
the overall tenor of the film, with particular notice to Macdonald's
narration, Zahn's superb rendition of Archie, Lisa Kudrow's female bear
Ava, Andy Dick's weasel, and Michael Rapaport's raccoon. Special mention
also has to be made of the special effects that blend in animatronics
with real-life animals.
Dr. Dolittle 2 may not break any new ground, but as a comedy
aimed at families, it succeeds nicely.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.