A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dr. Dolittle is a crude but funny Eddie Murphy vehicle that takes the name and basic concept from Hugh Lofting's famous stories about a man who can "talk to the animals." There is an enormous amount of rude humor -- innuendo, potty humor, iffy language -- involving the animal patients 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 and some language ("ass," and one use of "s--t").
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
DR. DOLITTLE (Eddie Murphy), an upwardly mobile San Francisco doctor, only wants the best for his wife and two daughters. One night driving home, Dolittle almost hits a dog and is subsequently gifted with a unique ability: he can "hear" the thoughts of any animal he encounters. Dolittle 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, Dolittle 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 Dolittle's family accepts his peculiar "talent." The sale of the clinic falls through; henceforth, Dolittle will treat humans and animals.
Is it any good?
This gimmicky talking animal comedy contains many rude jokes, some of which are actually amusing, thanks to a talented voice cast. Although it's unexceptionally directed, with unimpressive songs on the soundtrack, the star-studded voice cast brightens up the proceedings. Norm MacDonald and Chris Rock entertain with their popularly-established personas, and other comic actors (Albert Brooks, John Leguizamo, Jenna Elfman) affect colorful tones for their animal alter egos.
The moment when two 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 butt 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 ...
Families can talk about the relationship between Dr. Dolittle and his animal patients. How does it compare to the way he treats his human patients?
Families can also talk about what they think it would be like to be able to talk to animals. What animal would you most want to communicate with? What questions would you ask?
What role does Dr. Dolittle's family play in this movie? How does his relationship with his wife and kids change throughout the story?
- In theaters: June 26, 1998
- On DVD or streaming: September 2, 2003
- Cast: Eddie Murphy, Peter Boyle, Raven Symone
- Director: Betty Thomas
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: crude humor and language
- Last updated: February 7, 2020
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