Set in a the very modern city of San Francisco, CA, this fresh take on the classic tale is a far cry from the story of the veterinarian from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. Dr. John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) is a doctor with an interesting past. When he was a young boy, he had a gift of being able to talk to animals. He usually just had conversations with the family dog (Ellen DeGeneres). After learning about why dogs do things the way they do, and putting himself in a socially awkward situation, John’s father, Archer Dolittle (Ossie Davis), brings a holy man (John Lafayette) to exorcize the “evil demons” that seem to have possessed his son. The ritual scares young John so much, that the dog bites the reverend, and is sent away. John regresses and loses his gift for many decades.
John Dolittle is now a successful M.D. working at a practice, and has a family of his own. His pretty wife, Lisa (Kristen Wilson) is a lawyer, and he has two cute daughters, the fashionable and angsty Charisse (Raven-Symoné), and the adorable, slightly nerdy animal-lover, Maya (Kyla Pratt). One summer weekend, as they are about to take Maya to summer camp, after much protest from Maya, John learns that he must stay in town for the weekend because of a meeting he has to be at for a business merger his medical group is making with a corporate firm. His partners, the caring Dr. Gene ‘Geno’ Reiss (Richard Schiff), and the greedy Dr. Mark Weller (Oliver Platt) are need him at the meetings to square things away with Mr. Calloway (Peter Boyle) to make sure the merger is final. The night before the meeting, one of John’s patients, Mrs. Parkus (Cherie Franklin), a Ruebenesque woman with a severe allergy to shellfish, but can’t seem to get enough of a bad thing, is at the clinic late at night. John is called in to see her, takes care of business, then sleepily drives home. He spills coffee on his lap while driving, and does not see the stray dog crossing the street in front of him. He stops the SUV, and sees the dog laying on the street, dazed. The dog gets up, shakes off the spill, then tells him, “Way to go, bonehead!” John thinks this is just a hallucination from being sleep deprived, but when he gets home, Maya’s pet guinea pig, Rodney (Chris Rock) gets loose, and climbs into bed with John. John feels the little tickling of the rodent’s paws on him, then turns on the light and screams bloody murder. Rodney screams, too, and insults John.
This craziness is continued the next day when John goes to his lunch meeting at an outdoor cafe near the bay. He hears all the urban wildlife talking around him. The conversations of pigeons, squirrels, seagulls, and rats keep him from concentrating on the meeting, and he leaves abruptly. En route, he sees the stray dog again, who again insults him by calling him “bonehead”. He takes the dog to the vet, and other animals at the office talk to him and he observes a very reluctant German Shepard fighting his way into the examination room, protesting being neutered, but it doesn’t stop him from flirting with a female collie on the way in.
John and his new friend, Lucky (Norm MacDonald), start a misadventure that begins with the bumbling veterinarian, Dr. Fish (Jeffrey Tambor) losing a rectal thermometer inside Lucky to saving a tiger (Albert Brooks) with a blood clot in his brain. All along, John has to not only deal with finding his gift once again, but all the troubles and blessings it brings, but having to deal with his family, and co-workers who think he has gone insane after attempting to do CPR on a street rat. Things get even crazier from there, but it all leads to only great things.
Dr. Dolittle is 85 minutes of family fun, that can be a little crude at times, but cute, and filled with stars doing the voices of John Dolittle’s many animal patients. This film was the beginning of a five-film franchise, and it does not seem to be letting up soon. When it comes to movies with cute and funny animals, we can never seem to get enough.
I give this film a Musing review of