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
     environment.

             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.



                                           Rating:    C
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.