Doctor Dolittle (1967)

Movie review by
Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media
Doctor Dolittle (1967) Movie Poster Image
Kid-friendly talking animal musical comedy is fun but dated.
  • G
  • 1967
  • 152 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 2 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Animals and their behavior are examined in a light-hearted way, but certain facts about habitat are thrown in at random.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

Sexy Stuff

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."

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKvetchy Kvaddle January 17, 2020

More Boring, Sexist, and Racist Than I Remembered

My entire adult life (I’m currently 53), I’ve always considered my three favorite films from childhood to be Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Chitty Chitt... Continue reading
Parent of a 6-year-old Written bymelz06 April 26, 2019

Very cute! A little long, with many songs.

My daughter (6) really liked it. Fast forwarded through quite a few songs because of the time and length of the movie. But, she LOVED all the animals! Very c... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares April 9, 2009
Very dull, actually.
Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008

A wonderful movie!

A wonderful movie for all ages!

What's the story?

He's a bit awkward around people, but DOCTOR DOLITTLE has no trouble talking to the animals. This 1967 musical set in England in the mid-1800s follows the story of former medical doctor (Rex Harrison) who lives with a menagerie of talking animals and is sent to a mental institution for his seemingly unwell mental health after helping a sick seal. After being rescued by his two best friends, Doctor Dolittle embarks on a daring sea adventure to find the legendary Great Pink Sea Snail.

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.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the dated stereotypes in this movie. Which stereotypes did you notice? What was your reaction? Is the movie still enjoyable even with these elements? Are these kinds of stereotypes still evident today?

  • Talk about learning different languages (Dolittle knows 498), and use it as a jumping off point for encouraging language development.

  • The film makes a plea for humans to treat each other with civility and kindness. How can your family encourage kindness? What steps can you take to make the world a more civil place?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animals

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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