Last year Eddie Murphy returned to raking in box-office gold with The Nutty Professor, a crude comedy that still drew the crowds. Dr Dolittle follows a similar pattern: a family comedy with a familiar theme starring a curse-free Murphy. It's less a remake of the Rex Harrison original than a total overhaul. And anyone familiar with the Hugh Lofting Dr Dolittle stories, from which this drew its inspiration, had better give up looking out for any similarities.
The only thing this Dr Dolittle has in common with its famous source material is that the animals talk - - and animals talking is funny. It may not be anywhere near as classy as Babe, as far as the juvenile audience members are concerned, but it is a hoot. A dog sucks a thermometer up its arse; rats urge a suicidal tiger to ""jump!""; while pigeons disperse their droppings over the least-liked human characters.
Dr Dolittle is aimed squarely at the kids, although there's a couple of more sophisticated jokes for the older viewers. But, for the most part it's a relentless surge of slapstick humour with the obligatory American moral undertone. It is, after all, about a man being true to himself, not caring a jot about money and being able to save an obviously animatronic tiger from a life-threatening blood clot.
This is a true-blue Eddie Murphy vehicle (check out the crew list: he's credited with having a personal dresser, make-up artist, three assistants, a photo-double and a stand-in). Although the animals have some great lines, it is made perfectly clear that Murphy is the star, so the menagerie (part real, part puppet) is never allowed to upstage him.
Talking beasts and slapstick make this great family entertainment. But it drags in the last third, as animal antics and plot development take a back seat to slushy family values and a sequel-friendly resolution. Kids will lap it up.