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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Animals and their behavior are examined in a light-hearted way, but certain facts about habitat are thrown in at random.
Some stereotyping about Irishmen's proclivity to drink, women's capabilities, and "natives." On the positive, the movie encourages people to treat each other kindly.
Positive Role Models
Though Doctor Doolittle cares immensely about animals, he is the first to admit that he has a lousy way with humans.
Violence & Scariness
Slapstick scenes of a man's broken foot getting stomped on and animals running wild, causing things to fall on people's heads. A ship capsizes during a storm, but all passengers are fine. Natives of an island threaten to burn characters and cause them a "death of a thousand screams," though a peaceful resolution is found.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Chaste kisses among characters (and animals). A man swoons when he is kissed on the cheek by a woman. After a shipwreck, Emma says, while wearing a full-length sleeveless dress, that "this is my underwear."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Matthew drinks whiskey from a pint throughout the day. A magistrate is reported in court to have drunk a large quantity of wine and brandy the previous night.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Doctor Dolittle is very family-friendly for its lively songs, fuzzy animals, dancing, and cavorting. But watch out for some dated stereotypes, including that of a "Red Indian" called Long Arrow who sends an illiterate message along with an animal he's captured for Doolittle. Women also get second-class status, which is evident when Dolittle claims that he treated Emma "very well," even though she's a female. Young children will appreciate the fun and silliness but may be impatient with the slow first half. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Children will swoon over the animals (lots and lots of them) in Doctor Dolittle, while adults may grow comfortably nostalgic. Based on Hugh Lofting's popular children's stories from the 1920s, this 1967 Oscar nominee for Best Picture (by 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea director Richard Fleischer) is bursting with lively songs and exotic animals, but it takes its time gathering steam. Rex Harrison, who flexed his vocal cords with Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, is quite likable as Dolittle. He's at his best when interacting with animals, especially when asking for hints that might lead him to the Great Pink Sea Snail.
There are some winning moments in the first half, like a dog dusting furniture with its tail and the uneasiness of a pig around frying bacon, but the movie only really flies once we leave Puddleby for the more exotic Sea Star Island. There, the native leader, played by wonderfully charismatic Geoffrey Holder, brings vivacity to the proper English proceedings. Why didn't he get a song? The rest of the non-animal cast is unfortunately a bit drab, with little more to do than tag along. That doesn't mean kids won't appreciate the songs, silliness, and fun characters, and may even come away with some positive messages about communication and empathy.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.