The Austin Chronicle

Dr. Dolittle 2

Rated PG, 88 min. Directed by Steve Carr. Voices by Norm McDonald, Lisa Kudrow, Steve Zahn, Kevin Pollak. Starring Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson, Raven-Symoné, Jeffrey Jones, Lil' Zane, Andy Richter.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 22, 2001

I missed out on Murphy's previous outing as the eponymous Dr. D., though if this bland, cookie-cutter sequel is any indication I was right to get the laundry done that night. Hugh Lofting's classic Dr. Dolittle stories weren't quite my cup of musk growing up, either, but that had more to do with the fact that my kidhood allergies were blooming at the time and all that fictional dander and spoor rendered the tales of the amazing physician who could "talk to the animals" less than palatable. Still, I'm open to any film featuring a drunken monkey in a red beret (except Shaolin Drunken Monkey IV, of course), and Dr. Dolittle 2 seemed a likely bet for besotted primate antics. Sadly, however, this is tepid fare that suffers from a majority of the problems that plague so many sequels these days, chief among them a distinct lack of heart and a walloping case of rampant product placement. You can almost smell the greed, and if you can't then you can surely smell the KFC and Taco Bell foodstuffs that litter the film like Purina Human Chow run amok. Murphy plays Dolittle, a San Francisco-based animal therapist who, as this film opens, is finding his personal life increasingly at odds with his notoriety as the man who can communicate with the animals. Both his office and his home are overrun with two- and four-legged attention seekers; teenage daughter Maya (Pratt) has begun dating; and wife Lisa (Wilson) is demanding that, at the very least, the talking rats be kept out of the birthday cake. Dolittle and canine sidekick Lucky (voiced by Norm McDonald) get word that a nearby forest is about to be clear-cut by a logging interest headed by baddies Jones and simpering toady Pollak, and the only way to save the wildlife is by mating the last surviving Pacific mountain bear -- a female, voiced by Lisa Kudrow -- with the only male Pacific mountain bear raised in captivity (voiced by Steve Zahn). What follows is an episodic series of "wacky" misadventures that could have been lifted straight out of, say, Gilligan's Island -- the situation comedy overtones to Carr's film (his only previous credit is the Ice Cube comedy Next Friday) are blatant and clichéd at the best of times. Endless shots of Dolittle attempting to teach the Zahn-bear how to forage and frolic away from civilization quickly become rote, and the film's only other major subplot -- Maya's blossoming love match with rapper Lil' Zane -- is equally formulaic. At its best, Dr. Dolittle 2 is an inoffensive mish-mash of cute talking animals and their somewhat less-than-cute human buddies. As has become inevitable in Eddie Murphy films of late, the film features one of Murphy's ought-to-be-patented gaseous emissions sequences, this time with the Zahn-bear trapped in a human bathroom. Oh, my sides. My chief complaint with Dolittle 2 is how utterly predictable the whole thing is; you can practically read the story notes right there on the screen and the few good comic zingers writer Larry Levin comes up with zip by almost unnoticed. (Also, for a film that supposedly champions a "green" standpoint they sure went through an awful lot of former greenery to create their bulky, talking press kits!) Vastly underwhelming across the board, Dolittle ought to take a tip from the Dingos and shut up already.

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