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Movie Review

Eddie Murphy reprises his role as the famous physician (based on the classic children’s lit character created by Hugh Lofting) who can chat with chimps, dialogue with dogs and counsel chameleons. In 1998’s comedy Dr. Dolittle, the story focused primarily on the good doc coming to grips with his special gift. In this sequel, he has embraced it for better or worse and finds himself drawn into a struggle to save countless woodland creatures and their natural habitat from nasty developers who hunt for sport, build condos with reckless abandon, snipe at Democrats and probably never, ever made a tax-deductible contribution to Greenpeace. His Herculean task? Prepare Archie, a spoiled circus bear fond of junk food and Gloria Gaynor tunes, to reenter the wild and mate with Ava, the last of his endangered species. This would fulfill an environmental requirement and stop the heavy machinery in its tracks. But Dolittle’s attempts to play matchmaker run into a few snares. For one thing, Ava’s not interested. She wants an alpha male, not a show-bear with aspirations of being "bigger than Pooh." In the process of teaching Archie to do what should come naturally, Dolittle must also learn to communicate with the one species that eludes him—his teenage daughter, Charisse (played by one-time Cosby darling Raven-Symoné). It’s no real spoiler to say that all ends well, both in the forest and in the family.

positive elements: Dr. Dolittle and his attorney wife put their heads together and work as a team to thwart the bad guys. Also, amid humor about amorous animals, it’s nice to see this married human couple displaying affection for one another. The doctor cares for his patients, which include humans and other mammals, and refuses to quit fighting on their behalf when the going gets tough. Trying to give Archie a vision for family life, Dr. D says, "Life wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t have my wife and kids to go home to." In return, the animals help him protect the innocence of his 16-year-old daughter by chaperoning her activities with a streetwise young man. Dr. Dolittle sees Charisse wearing headphones and moving her hips to the beat, inspiring him to comment, "That’s not dancing; that’s advertising."

spiritual content: A pet chameleon alludes to Star Wars theology with the throwaway comment, "Use the Force!" Viewers hear two references to Darwin and his evolutionary "survival of the fittest" position, but not a single line about divine creation.

sexual content: There’s a great deal of humor related to animals mating, from tortoises taking Viagra, to rabbits preparing to "fool around," to Dolittle’s attempts at linking Archie and Ava (she tells the doc, "No offense, but I don’t talk to bear pimps"). Lucky tries to get lucky with a shewolf.

violent content: Mild. In a self-deprecating cameo, real-life crocodile hunter Steve Irwin has a close encounter with an alligator (implied, off-screen). A man is stung in the face by bees and dive-bombed by pigeons. Growling wolves and other beasts seek to intimidate foes. Dolittle provokes Archie to explore his wild side, which he does, sending the doctor sailing. Some dialogue by members of a wildlife mafia suggest that the reigning godbeaver deals harshly with his enemies.

crude or profane language: This will be a drawback for families, especially those with younger children. More than a dozen mild profanities (mainly h--- and d--n) and several misuses of the Lord’s name are joined by the crude expressions "butt," "friggin’" and "I suck." A thug possum states, "That bear is one bad mother." Insolent racehorses stand idle in the starting gate, chanting "H--- no, we won’t go!"

drug and alcohol content: A monkey with a drinking problem is shown sipping wine, uncorking a bottle of champagne and mixing whiskey sours (early in the film, Dr. D condemns his habit, but it is still played for laughs throughout). Dr. and Mrs. Dolittle begin an evening of romance with glasses of wine.

other negative elements: Bathroom humor crops up now and then. Archie has an explosive bowel movement in a tiny restroom. Lucky urinates a number of times and narrowly misses being sprayed by a wolf peeing for dominance. A raccoon relieves himself on a contract he deems unacceptable.

conclusion: With the help of excellent animal trainers and impressive computer technology, the critters in this film really come to life, challenging Murphy to be as dynamic and interesting as his furry, feathered or scaly co-stars. As it is, they’re all fun to watch. Long-time Eddie Murphy fans will find him domesticated and censored here (a pleasant change), much closer to Bill Cosby than Axel Foley.

The script isn’t spectacular but it has a good heart, as well as a gaggle of hit-and-miss gags and pop culture nods that had me laughing from my gut more than once (on the whole, much funnier than this summer’s other heavily touted comedy, Evolution). There’s also something to be said for the Dolittles’ loving two-parent family and the way common stresses (dad’s workload, Charisse’s quest for independence) lead to unity and understanding. Of course, viewers who hate to feel manipulated by filmmakers’ social agendas will loathe Dr. Dolittle 2 for wearing its environmentalism on its sleeve as blatantly as Medicine Man or Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. The movie’s press notes indicate that writer Larry Levin "has long been active in environmental causes." It shows. While it effectively drives the story, it still feels preachy.

Eddie Murphy’s first turn as Dr. Dolittle pulled in $290 million worldwide. It has also earned him a loyal following among young theatergoers. "Of all the movies I’ve done, I get the most feedback on Dr. Dolittle," says Murphy. "No matter where I am—all over the world—kids and teens would come up to me and say, ‘Hey, Dr. D!’" Such recognition will probably increase with the release of Dr. Dolittle 2. Were it not for the film’s disappointing language and scatological humor, that wouldn’t be half bad.

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Eddie Murphy as Dr. Dolittle; Jeffrey Jones as Joseph Potter; Kevin Pollak as Jack Riley; Kristen Wilson as Lisa Dolittle; Raven-Symoné as Charisse Dolittle; Kyla Pratt as Maya Dolittle; Lil’ Zane as Eric; Steve Irwin as himself. Animal voices provided by: Steve Zahn as Archie; Lisa Kudrow as Ava; Norm MacDonald as Lucky; Michael Rapaport as Joey the Raccoon; Andy Dick as Lennie the Weasel; Jacob Vargas as Pepito the Chameleon; Frankie Muniz and pop singer Mandy Moore as bear cubs; also, brief appearances by Isaac Hayes, Jamie Kennedy, Phil Proctor, Mike Epps and others


Steve Carr ( )


20th Century Fox



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Bob Smithouser

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