Let's see, it's being marketed to families, yet it contains a lot of flatulence and sexual humor. So it's got to be either a Disney live-action feature or another Eddie Murphy vehicle masquerading as a "family film."
And since Disney seems to have blown most of its annual budget on the deserved bombs "Krippendorf's Tribe" and "Meet the Deedles," it's got to be Murphy.And he takes the primary blame for "Dr. Dolittle," a terribly unfunny and crass comedy that has much more in common with the inexplicably popular 1996 update of "The Nutty Professor" (also starring Murphy) than it does with either the 1967 film of the same name or the popular children's stories that purportedly "inspired" it.
Admittedly, the 1967 comedy/musical (which starred Rex Harrison) isn't exactly great cinema, but it looks like a masterpiece when compared to the new one. And to be blunt, it's hard to say which is worse in this movie, all the dumbbell, gross-out jokes or the insincere attempts to put across a message.
For a change, Murphy only plays one role, that of John Dolittle, a career-obsessed physician who doesn't notice his wife (Kristen Wilson) and two daughters (Kyla Pratt and Raven-Symone) gradually pulling away from him.
The doc and his partners are on the verge of signing a big deal with an HMO when disaster strikes. Under pressure at work and at home, John thinks he's lost it when he starts to hear animals talking to him - it's an ability that has been dormant since his childhood.
Unfortunately, no one believes him - except the animals (voices for which are provided by Norm Macdonald, Albert Brooks, Chris Rock and Jenna Elfman, among others). But he gets his big chance to prove his abilities and win back his family's trust when he's called on to save a dying circus tiger (voiced by Brooks).
It wouldn't fair to lay all the blame on Murphy, especially when the script and direction (the latter by Betty Thomas, of "Private Parts" and "The Brady Bunch Movie" infamy) are so inept.
However, Murphy nearly lives up to his character's last name, with a catatonic performance that requires him to simply react to the supposedly humorous shenanigans of the animal characters. Except for Macdonald, who voices his canine "conscience," and Brooks, the animals are just annoying (particularly Rock's interpretation of a mouthy guinea pig).
And frankly, like Murphy, the human performers are just wasted - especially Ossie Davis, Oliver Pratt and Peter Boyle. (The latter two serve as the butt of the film's humiliating punchline.)
"Dr. Dolittle" is rated PG-13 for an abundance of vulgar jokes and gags, profanity, slapstick violence, partial female nudity (as part of a disgusting sight gag) and brief hospital gore.