Doctor Dolittle (1967) Movie Poster Image

Doctor Dolittle (1967)



Animal-friendly, kid-friendly classic -- but dated.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1967
  • Running Time: 152 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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, but all passengers are fine after the storm. 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."

Not applicable
Not applicable
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.

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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 19, 1967
DVD/Streaming release date:October 31, 2000
Cast:Anthony Newley, Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar
Director:Richard Fleischer
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Music and sing-along, Wild animals
Run time:152 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byLowe's man October 22, 2014

May or may not appeal to adults, but definitely for kids!

Mainstream critics didn't like this movie. For a long time I couldn't understand why. After all, when I was a teenager I was anxious to see it. I liked it then. When I saw it over a decade and a half later as an adult I felt differently. While I still thought that it was wholesome, I didn't think that the artistic quality was particularly good. The Catholic Conference, whose views I typically don't agree with, said in 1988, "Musical purists won't like it, but others, especially children, will." That sums it up. Those who haven't been exposed to many musicals will like this movie. Had I not seen so many musicals I'd still like this movie to this day. But, having seen numerous musicals, "Doctor Dolittle" is a pseudomusical. This movie would've been better if it had been either a complete musical or a complete nonmusical. But it won't make any difference to children. Plop it in for them and they'll love it. This version is far more appropriate for them than the newer version.
Adult Written byBa movie girl April 2, 2011

better than the newer version

i loved it and i thought it was better than the new version a wonderful movie to see
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 15 years old Written bywho3697cares April 9, 2009


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