Doctor Dolittle (1967)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic family tale is exceedingly G-rated -- for 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. Children younger than 5 will appreciate the fun and silliness, but may be impatient with the slow first half.
What's the story?
He's a bit awkward around people, but John Dolittle has no trouble talking to the animals. This 1967 musical sets the doctor (Rex Harrison) 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; 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 busting full of 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 likeable 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 prize moments in the first half, like a dog dusting furniture with its tail and the uneasiness of a pig while bacon is frying, 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. How come he didn't get a song? The rest of the non-animal cast is a bit drab, unfortunately, with little more to do than tag along. That didn't get in the way of an 8-year-old viewer's enjoyment; nor did the "fake-looking" giant snail or two-headed llama. Dolittle's musings as to why humans can't seem to get along with each other the way other animals do wasn't lost on him.
Families can talk 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? Do you think people still believe in these kinds of stereotypes?
Talk about learning different languages (Dolittle knows 498), and use it as a jumping off point for encouraging language development in their own children.
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?
|Theatrical release date:||December 19, 1967|
|DVD/Streaming release date:||October 31, 2000|
|Cast:||Anthony Newley, Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar|
|Studio:||Twentieth Century Fox|
|Genre:||Family and Kids|
|Topics:||Adventures, Book characters, Music and sing-along, Wild animals|
|Run time:||152 minutes|