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DR. DOLITTLE 2

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Eddie Murphy, Kristin Wilson, Jeffery Jones, Kevin Pollak
Voices: Steve Zahn, Lisa Kudrow, Michael Rapaport, Norm Macdonald
Director: Steve Carr
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 87 Minutes
Release Date: October 23, 2001

“Would you like a fish?”

“Uh, no thanks, I’ve already eaten.”

“Hey, da beaver offers you a fish, you take da fish!”

Film ***

Of all of Eddie Murphy’s movies, a lot of which deserve a place in the AFI’s Top 100 Comedies of All Time list, one of his more disappointing entries, I thought, was his remake of Dr. Dolittle in 1998. I never saw the original movie version with Rex Harrison, but I was familiar with the storyline, which was that of a noble doctor who had the ability to communicate with animals. The remake let me down because it seemed that the talking animals along with the endless array of crude humor took the movie over, and not allowing Murphy to showcase his comic genius, though his performance was the best thing about the movie. Nevertheless, the movie was a surefire box office success, and I guess should now be thankful, because it without a doubt led to the making of a sequel. I can immediately and honestly confirm that Dr. Dolittle 2 is not only a way better movie than its predecessor, but it’s also an enormously funny piece of entertainment, and it qualifies for wonderful family viewing. What makes this sequel case even better is that Dr. Dolittle 2 can be viewed and enjoyed even if you have never seen the first Dolittle, because from what I could tell, no references are made to it.

Murphy returns in the role of John Dolittle, and thankfully the character has a lot more involvement in the movie’s story, which means Murphy is able to showcase his sheer brilliance for spontaneous funny moments. The opening scenes show Dolittle in his prime, as he now runs his own animal clinic, complete with a 12-step program for stray dogs, where he advises all the dogs to tell themselves, “I am SOMEBODY’S best friend. He has even become something of a worldwide celebrity, traveling around the world to showcase his talent, and in once scene assisting the Crocodile Hunter himself, Steve Irwin. Dolittle’s home life is just as demanding as his work, with his oldest daughter (Raven Symone) starting to date, and the entire family being patient with the countless amount of animals in and out of the house.

One night, Dolittle gets a visit from a wise-guy raccoon (voiced by Michael Rapaport), who summons the doctor to a meeting with the God Beaver of the forest, on the occasion of an emergency. The beaver informs Dolittle of a plot to level the entire forest. The only primary inhabitant of the land is a female bear, who has no male to reproduce with, and so the doctor looks quickly for a likely candidate, and he finds one in the clumsily bashful Archie (voiced by Steve Zahn), who performs circus acts.

The scenes with Dolittle and Archie provide the movie’s biggest laughs. Archie is given lengthy training in becoming the true alpha-male type bear. Such other funny moments are scenes such as when Dolittle takes Archie to an animal shelter to show how other bears end up, and when Archie tries to make some moves on the female bear, after seeing Dolittle dancing with his wife, singing the Lionel Richie song “Truly”, and perhaps the most howling moment is when Archie enters a human restroom, accompanied by Dolittle…you can pretty much guess the rest of the scene, but it’s a laugh out loud moment. And anyone who’s anyone will be knocked out be the scene where animals all across the world go on strike, shutting down even Sea World in the process.

Many complain that sequels don’t live up to the level of the original, but Dr. Dolittle 2 is one of the best recent examples of how every once in a while, a sequel can be an actual improvement over the first movie. It doesn’t require a deep study, it’s simply a movie to watch and laugh at, to be amazed by the impressive array of visual effects that accompany the talking animals (by far the most impressive since Babe) and most of all, it is a perfect selection for family viewing, because it contains comedy that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Video ****

Yet another strikingly terrific video transfer from the remarkable DVD pros at Fox. A sharp as can be transfer is what’s presented here, complete with truly vibrant colors. Many scenes in the movie take place outdoors, and in particular, forest areas, all of which transfer incredibly well in this superb video job. Even darker sets turn out nicely. In the wake of their triumphant release of Star Wars: Episode I, this movie, and the upcoming, sure-fire standout disc for Planet of the Apes, Fox shows signs of reigning the DVD throne.

Audio ***1/2

This audio transfer makes for a surprisingly impressive sound. The 5.1 presentation excels particularly in one regard, which is the sudden, distinctive background sounds and voices. Frequently in the movie, many voices, mostly that of animals, can be heard in the background, and picked up on side speakers, as well as the top. Music numbers, and occasional instances of loud, physical comedy come off wonderful as well. Top-notch quality.

Features ****

Fox bears the usual genius level of extras on this purely packed disc. Included is a director’s commentary, and extended scenes. Also featured are three featurettes; the HBO Making of Documentary, A Kid’s Guide Grizzlies, and Wild on the Set: A Featurette with Tank the Bear. Included also are storyboard comparisons, a music video for the song “Cluck Cluck” by The Product G & B with Wyclef Jean, and Theatrical Trailers and TV spots for the film, as well as a trailer for the upcoming Fox animated release, The Ice Age.

Summary:

Dr. Dolittle 2 is clean, family friendly entertainment at its best. Credit to Eddie Murphy for delivering yet another wonderfully energetic comedic performance, the visual effects team, and the filmmakers for crafting a major improvement over the first movie.