First off, I didn't see the first Eddie Murphy revival of the Hugh Lofting stories. I thought it was refreshing to see a black man as the Doctor, as the Lofting works didn't treat those of African Descent as humans, though animals were... even as a little kid that made me sick to my stomach. Anyway, aside from that I figured the movie was a take it or leave it scenario, and I only actually watched the second one because my plans fell through... But man... I'm rather glad I saw the damned thing! Eddie Murphy isn't in his comedic prime, but he's better than most comics out there. Again, Eddie plays John Dolittle, the physician who can talk to the animals (and not get arrested in four states) and is married to the yummy former host of Comedy Central's Standup Standup (Kristin Wilson... not the guy host, man!). Their kids Raven-Symone and Kyla Pratt likewise return, though now Raven's character Charisse is of dating age (and frighteningly to those who used to watch The Cosby Show she looks it).
Amid teen issues and demands for a vacation, John is suckered into treating a trained circus bear named Archie (voice of Steve Zahn) who is one of the last of his species. The stretch of woods where the bears are to repopulate the species is in danger of becoming a housing development spearheaded by Kevin Pollak and Jeffrey Jones! So you see, if John doesn't help Archie and Ava (voice of Lisa Kudrow) get together, the forest is lost and all the talking critters will be without a home.
Beyond that the plot is as empty the seats at a Foghat reunion concert! What follows is a series of sight gags involving animals doing impossible things and Murphy discussing sex (in a PG sort of way), and more poo-poo and pee-pee jokes than a Farelly brothers flick. Primarily the funnies surround animals doing and saying things that only people can do or say, followed by animals doing things to people that are both embarrassing and motivated by silly revenge. It's all in good fun though, and there do end up being some positive moments here and there.
I never expected to become a Steve Zahn fan, but he seems to be pretty good in the movies I've seen him in. Here is no exception. He adds a lot of humor as Archie the Dancing Bear both in his goofiest speaking voice and his silly singing voice. Kudrow is fine as Ava, a detached, barely interested female bear whom Archie is lamely trying to impress. A lesser actor than Zahn wouldn't get much sympathy, but he puts some heart into it. Murphy is a fine actor, but here he just seems to be reacting to the silliness around him and making faces. His involvement is good and his tough love approach to treating old Archie elicits some snickers, but for the most part he seems to be saying to the audience "I thought that last bit was funny... and now for something completely different.
Archie's turn as a scared-straight bear in a cell with grizzlies is a funny moment, are John and Archie's sessions. The real kick about this film is the humor surrounding all the animal cameo voices and actual cameo actors. Steve Irwin (the Crocodile Hunter) pops up briefly, as does Doug Seus, a real-life bear trainer. The voice cameos include Isaac Hayes at his funniest, Jamie Kennedy becoming less notable by the second, Joey Lauren Adams who is cute as heck, Andy Dick, Michael McKean, Michael Rapaport and even Arnold Schwarzenegger as a forest white wolf among others. Unfortunately while these are pretty funny the movie itself is not terribly cohesive, and plays like a loosely gathered together collection of sketches with a one act plot. Make no mistake, this movie is very funny, but not exactly About Schmidt!
The fact that all the animals actually speak and are intelligent is sort of unsettling because the subject of eating other animals is paramount in the script. Dolittle actually has a steak dinner in the early scenes of the film. Forgive me, but wouldn't the ability to communicate with animals force you into veganism? Archie actually is forced to fish for salmon while they talk to him... cringe! I wonder what the cast system for the animals in this film is.
Three Stars for Dr. Dolittle 2. It's not a bad little film, but it's not great either! It's one of those you can watch pieces of and laugh, but following the plot will make you wish for a little revision. Also, the potty jokes should only be funny if you're watching this film with a little one, but the sex jokes might make you dart back to said little one and say "You didn't get that one, did you?" Hey, it's more believable and topical than any of the Police Academy movies! Anyway... I have to run and buy some Gardenburgers! I can't eat meat after watching that film. Now if I could just get my hamster to go buy them for me! Lazy bones!
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