Dr. Dolittle is a 1998 family comedy set in San Francisco. It stars Eddie Murphy as Dr. John Dolittle, Ossie Davis as Archer Dolittle, Oliver Platt as Dr. Mark Weller, and Peter Boyle as Calloway. The producers are John Davis (Garfield), Joseph M. Singer (Daylight), and David T. Friendly (My Girl). The director is Betty Thomas (I Spy).
The story is about a man named John Dolittle who lives in San Francisco. He can talk to and understand animals. His father thought there was something wrong with him and had the family dog taken away. Years passed and John never spoke to animals until one night after treating a patient, he accidentally hit a dog. When the dog got up and called him a “bonehead”, he thought he was hearing things. The next day during a business meeting, he overheard some pigeons talking and panicked.
After the meeting he saw the dog from the previous night being taken to the pound and followed him to save him from being put to sleep. After he has a vet check the dog out, John decides to release it but the dog won’t go away. He calls his family and, having overheard the dog barking, think he has bought them a dog. John takes Lucky the dog to his daughter’s camp to show her. Later on, just before going to sleep, some animals come to John’s door seeking help. They overwhelm him so he decides to help each of them, unbeknownst to his wife and daughter who are sleeping in the next room. After he finished, he was talking to Lucky about how alive he felt when he was treating the animals when an alcoholic monkey tells him about a suicidal tiger nearby. He agrees to help the tiger.
All is well until one day some rats outside his office ask him to help. John takes them into the office and treats one. That’s when his wife and colleagues see him talking to the rats and think he is crazy. So they have him committed, temporarily. Meanwhile, the tiger is getting worse so Lucky rushes over to the hospital to tell the doctor but he doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to block out all the animal voices and return to his normal life. But after overhearing a conversation between his daughter and father about being different, he has second thoughts.
There is a secret life message hidden in Dr. Dolittle. It is “Don’t hide from who you are”. Some people may think you are weird because of what you may be like or what you may do, but don’t let it stop you. If you try to suppress who you are, you will end up miserable as John Dolittle was before he rediscovered his gift of communicating and understanding animals. At first, people thought he was crazy because he spoke to animals but soon they began to accept him for who he is and realize that this was his gift.
One other feature that caught my attention was the use of popular comedians as the voices of the animals. For example, Norm MacDonald was the voice of Lucky, the Dolittles’ family dog. Ellen DeGeneres played Dolittle’s dog when he was a child. Gilbert Gottfried appeared as the voice of the compulsive dog that Dolittle treats in the beginning. Chris Rock was Rodney’s voice, Maya Dolittle’s guinea pig. Paul Reubens also made a cameo appearance as the raccoon. This was probably done to add a sense of familiarity to the film and, thus, attract a wider audience.
To wrap, Dr. Dolittle is a film for the whole family. It entertains the old as well as the young audiences.