25 October 2013 | secondtake
Not half bad and lots of small quirks that will make you smile
Doctor Dolittle (1998)
I was surprised to see this movie got such a low rating—it's not so bad. Oh, for sure it's not so great, either. But Eddie Murphy alone makes it something worth watching (he's one of the few perfect-pitch comedians out there). And the story, a 1920 classic for children, is something of its own.
What falls apart is the slightly pushy sentimentalism and the generally mediocre secondary cast. That might be enough to push it into mediocrity, for sure, but it's not meant to be a deep classic, and it plays with the story nicely.
That story is not just about a doctor (of the human type) who can hear animals talking. It's more about how society condemns hims and tries to help him with psycho-care. His bland wife (with the gorgeous eyes that get overplayed) is typical of his "friends," all nice people with distractions and no time for the possibility that he might, in fact, hear animals talk.
The talking animals are of course great fun, from the rats to the tiger. This is the part of the movie that is meant to appeal across the board, and it does, including its good special effects. The feeling of family, not dysfunctional, is another bit of warmth, not to mention that the family is African American, a nice twist on the original story based on an English doctor.
And though the movie was not liked by critics, it has made a third of a billion dollars, which speaks for itself. Not a masterpiece, and not even a classic, it still has wonderful aspects including a very wonderful basic concept.