Dr Dolittle 2



USA 2001
director : Steve Carr
script : Larry Levin
cinematography : Daryn Okada
editing : Craig P Herrring
music : David Newman
lead actors : Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson, Kevin Pollak, (voice of) Steve Zahn
87 minutes

An endurable enough kids’ picture, Dr Dolittle 2 is relatively mild, gentle stuff, and children over the age of six or seven will probably hanker after the more spectacular thrills of Shrek, The Mummy Returns, or (God help them) Tomb Raider. The main problem is the Bush-era-topical, but desperately overfamiliar plot, with forest creatures recruiting “Dr D” to save their habitat from evil loggers.

Dolittle’s lawyer wife Lisa (Wilson) suggests the best solution is to find an endangered species which could then be protected by court order. Handily, the woods turn out to contain a rare example of a certain type of bear, and Dolittle must then find her a suitable mate. Enter Archie, a circus performer who isn’t thrilled at the prospect of returning to a wild environment of foraging, insect-eating and hibernation.

Engagingly played by (in Variety‘s phrase) an ‘ursine thesp’ Tank, Archie saves the movie as well as the forest, his animatronically-enhanced reactions and Zahn’s amiable vocal stylings blending to create a scene-stealingly sympathetic character. Decent jokes are pretty thin on the ground, but there’s a priceless moment when Dolittle tries teaching Archie to fish, and the bear sticks his head under the water, greeting his finny ‘prey’ with a bubbling submarine cry of ‘Whassaaaaap.’

Despite such nicely droll touches, the prevailing air is of a missed opportunity – it’s strange that a scene with a crocodile and a Bush-Tucker-Man Aussie, so prominent in the trailers, has been re-voiced in a way that loses almost all its comic nuance. Similarly, in a picture that’s all about romance (between Archie and she-bear Eva, Dolittle and Lisa, their teenage daughter Charisse (Raven-Symone) and ‘homie’ Eric (Lil’Zane), even their dog Lucky and a forest wolf), surely more should have been done with Isaac Hayes’s, who has only a few lines as a possum.

Then again, this must be the only movie to start off in San Francisco and culminate in a rousing rendition of ‘I Will Survive,’ without a single gay character, joke or even reference. More troubling: crass product-placement when Charisse and Eric enjoy a woodland picnic and every item of food hails from prominent, tie-in-minded fast-food chains.

Dolittle 2 passes the time OK, and it certainly doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in comfortably below the 90 minute mark before the credits – complete with tiresomely inevitable ‘out-takes’ – start to roll.

But the neat talking-animal technology surely cries out for more inventive applications: has anybody in Hollywood read Paul Auster’s dog-narrated novella, Timbuktu, by any chance?

22nd July, 2001
(seen Jul-22-01, Warner Village, Newcastle)
by Neil Young
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