If I Could Talk
To The Animals…I'd Never Eat Meat Again…
questions about bears, woods, and bodily functions. Not necessarily
in that order…
happened. A really terrible (but moderately successful) summer film
spawned a sequel. Okay, in and of itself, that's not so amazing. Instead,
marvel that Dr. Dolittle 2 is not only that rare sequel better
than the original (in this case, not hard), but it's also entertaining
in its own right. Norm McDonald plays a major role and the movie still
When last we left
the good doctor (Eddie Murphy), he had come to grips with his mutant
ability to talk to the animals, and accepted an invitation to teach
at the mysterious Xavier Institute For Gifted Children. Well, he should
have. Instead, he combined his thriving medical practice with a newfound
veterinary skill. Three years later and it seems to have worked out
just fine. Oldest daughter Charisse (Raven-Symone) chafes at living
with animals traipsing around her life, and Dolittle doesn't know what
After rats ruin
Charisse's birthday cake, her father tries to make it up with a trip
to Europe. The local wildlife mafia, however, have other plans. Sending
Possum (Isaac Hayes) and Joey the Raccoon (Michael Rapaport) as emissaries,
they "persuade" Dr. Dolittle to check out a logging site that threatens
their homes. Thankfully, Dolittle's wife Lisa (Kristen Wilson) practices
law, and together they figure out a way to halt the logging company.
If Dr. Dolittle can teach circus bear Archie (Steve Zahn) to survive
in the wild and mate with Ava (Lisa Kudrow), their species will continue,
and no logging can be done in the area. (It makes sense when they tell
The trip to Europe
cancelled, the entire Dolittle clan and their dog Lucky (McDonald),
who narrates the whole adventure, head to the woods, and the training
begins. Unfortunately for them, you can take Archie out of showbiz,
but you can't take showbiz out of Archie. In Ava's words, he's a dork.
And unless he snaps out of it and stops singing Gloria Gaynor tunes,
Ava and Archie will never get together.
While it isn't
Shakespeare, DR.2 does hew to the spirit of the original Hugh
Lofting stories. (And who's to say that Eddie Murphy's character isn't
a descendant of the original?) In the first film, Dolittle's family
dynamics took center stage, and it played out mawkishly. The animals
were no more than a "cute" gimmick, and the film suffered for it. Here
writer Larry Levin and director Steve Carr wisely shift the emphasis
to the animals themselves. The family storyline here still seems a little
stiff, but it those scenes never last long enough to get boring. From
a structural standpoint, it's also great to see a movie that actually
has a third act. It moves well, it ends well, and it leaves you not
afraid to see another installment. Some of the jokes lie a little on
the cheap side, with a lot of toilet humor, but it works because this
is, after all, a film with talking animals.
Many of the animals
are cast perfectly. Isaac Hayes makes a better possum than anyone might
have imagined, and Zahn clearly has a blast playing a has-been on the
fringe of the entertainment industry. Andy Dick makes a cameo as a weasel,
and never has there been a more fitting pairing of man and animal. They
might just as well have put Dick in a weasel suit; it's that eerie.
If you listen closely, too, you'll catch many Mr. Show regulars.
Still, Murphy owns
this film. While a little jarring to see a former hip, edgy comedian
play a father figure, it works. He comes across as a caring father figure.
In his dealings with the animals, the script allows him to snap into
his edgier persona, and flashes of the old fast-talking Eddie emerge.
Thank heavens he can still remind us that Chris Tucker works in territory
Murphy staked and left years ago.
The rest of the
humans do not fare quite as well. This time around the younger Dolittle
daughter (Kyla Pratt) has almost nothing to do. Symone takes the focus,
but doesn't get to do much more than whine. Basically, the Dolittle
family has been appearing in one form or another on network television
for years, and the film has nothing new to offer on that score. Kevin
Pollak and Jeffrey Jones appear as the villains of the piece, and as
such do a decent job mugging evilly when required. In too brief a role,
Andy Richter pops up as a hapless zookeeper, funnier than expected and
marking him as a character actor to watch.
Fox and Murphy
may have hit upon a new franchise, if they want it. Kids have got to
love this stuff. Adults won't feel cheated if they stumble into it.
And there is still that eerie Andy Dick/weasel thing.
it worth? $5
You're One of Our Readers With Children: $10
Atlantis by Jordan Rosa
(Updated 6-21-01, 5:39 PM PST)
Thank Rao someone still uses pen and ink.
we all want to save the world...
by Derek McCaw (Updated
6-12-01, 8:36 PM PST)
Halle has been berry, berry good to me...