Dr. Dolittle (1998)

D: Betty Thomas
S: Eddie Murphy, Oliver Platt, Ossie Davis.

As a child, John Dolittle had the ability to communicate with his pet dog, but under the reproachful infulence of his crusty father (Ossie Davis), he abandoned his gift in favour of a life of normalcy. But as an adult (Eddie Murphy), now a doctor, he rediscovers his talent during a time of great personal stress. Initially thinking himself to be insane, he gradually realises that his talent allows him to help animals with problems and must reasses his attitudes to life accordingly.

Why Eddie Murphy has made the transition from the hip, profane comedian of the 1980s to the star of children's movies is anyone's guess. But after The Nutty Professor, and the less than successful Metro, he returns to wholesome family entertainment (with plenty of anal-oriented humour) with relative ease and humour. Dr. Dolittle is an unambitious formulaic film which is likely to work if you expect it to and will probably repel you if you don't. It makes no great demands on its audience, and with the benefit of animatronics and cgi, repeats the Babe trick of making animals talk, usually with the voice of a famous comedian (Chris Rock, Albert Brooks, Julie Kavner, etc). The film is mildly entertaining and generally harmless (if you can bear a couple of dodgy references to 'butts') and likely to provide ample distraction for the small fry without unduly outraging adults.

Review by Harvey O'Brien copyright 1998.