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Parents' Guide to

Doctor Dolittle (1967)

By Scott G. Mignola, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 5+

Kid-friendly talking animal musical comedy is fun but dated.

Movie G 1967 152 minutes
Doctor Dolittle (1967) Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 6+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 5+

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 Chitty Bang Bang, and Doctor Dolittle. Since having children of my own (currently 5 and 8), we’ve watched Wonka and Chitty repeatedly as a family, and my daughters seem to love those films as much as I do. With the new Robert Downey Jr. version of Dolittle coming out, I figured it was high time we all watched the 1967 original, which we did last night. And what an eye-opening disappointment it was. For one thing, unlike Wonka and (most of) Chitty, Doctor Dolittle is slow and boring. Sure, Chitty is also long and has a few slow moments, but they pass quickly. The 1967 Dolittle, on the other hand, is tedious from start to finish and will bore the pants off most children. Also, the music isn’t nearly on a par with the other films, despite the contribution of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, who later did such an excellent job with Willy Wonka. Even the songs that I remembered fondly, particularly Talk to the Animals, are marred by Rex Harrison’s borderline tuneless recitative style of talk-singing. The far more tuneful memories I had in my head of the songs must have come from having heard at some point different renditions, perhaps the Sammy Davis Junior versions. Most troubling of all was the terrible treatment of the female lead. who is forced to do menial labor on the sea voyage while the men lounge around, all to prove that she’s better than a lowly woman and almost the equal to a man. When my 5 year old daughter asked me “Why does she want to be different from who she is?” I felt I’d made a mistake in showing my kids the film without having first rewatched it with my wife to know what we were getting into. I’m not even going to go into the racist, stereotypical presentation of the African tribe, as it’s just an additional embarrassment added to an already embarrassing film. All of the forgoing might - might - be excusable if the film were moderately entertaining, but it’s not. Doctor Dolittle is a tedious chore to slog through. I highly recommend that any parents who are thinking of watching this with their young children based on fond memories of having done so in their own childhood rewatch the film first without the kids, as I wish I had done, to make sure they’re really okay with their kids watching it.
age 7+

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 cute movie!

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4 ):
Kids say (1 ):

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.

Movie Details

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