A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this crude but funny Eddie Murphy vehicle lifts the name and basic concept from Hugh Lofting's famous stories about a man who can "talk to the animals." An enormous amount of sophomoric humor -- innuendo, potty humor, iffy language -- involving the good doctor's animal patients is added to the mix. Because many of the jokes include toilet humor and crude references to the human body, parents may want to decide whether or not they feel comfortable with this type of content for younger kids, though those children will certainly be charmed by the animal characters. Older kids will enjoy the jokes, but parents may still wish to exercise discretion, due to the nature of the humor, which includes innuendo and some language ("ass," and one use of "s--t").
What's the story?
John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy), an upwardly mobile San Francisco doctor, only wants the best for his wife and two daughters. One night driving home, Dolittle swerves away from a dog, and is subsequently gifted with a unique ability: he can "hear" the thoughts of any animal he encounters. John ignores the upcoming sale of his clinic to a conglomerate in order to care for the injured and sick animals who invade his house and office, having heard of his gift. After a stay in a mental institution, John avoids the animals completely, but his humanitarian instincts soon reemerge. On the night of the big press conference that will announce the sale of his clinic, Dolittle must perform an operation on a sick circus tiger. The operation is a success, and John's family accepts his peculiar "talent." The sale of the clinic is cancelled; henceforth, Dolittle will treat animals and humans.
Is it any good?
This gimmicky talking animal-comedy contains numerous mildly scatological jokes, some of which are actually amusing, thanks to a talented voice-cast. Unexceptionally directed, with unimpressive songs on the soundtrack. The star-studded voice cast brightens up the proceedings, with Norm MacDonald and Chris Rock trading on their popularly-established personas, and other comic actors (Albert Brooks, John Leguizamo, Jenna Elfman) affecting colorful tones for their animal alter-egos.
The moment when two nebbishy pigeons (voiced by Garry Shandling and Julie Kavner) discuss the male pigeon's impotence is clearly meant to amuse adult viewers -- who will have long since tuned out or left the room, having been numbed by the chronic repetition of animal-rear-end jokes. DR. DOLITTLE's message ("be who you are and love who you are") is lost amid the crude humor. Similarly, Dolittle's transition from money-hungry yuppie to altruistic animal-lover is unconvincing, due to sloppy scripting and the fact that Murphy is still a better comedian than he is an actor.
Talk to your kids about ...
For kids who love animals
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