Norm MacDonald (voice)
Albert Brooks (voice)
Chris Rock (voice)
A modern and rather loose take on the classic children's story, the Dr. Dolittle movie from 1998 sees Eddie Murphy's doctor slowly realize that either he can actually talk to animals or he is losing his mind entirely.
The film opens with a young John Dolittle discovering his talents before he is encouraged by his father to forget about all that, which he does well into adulthood. Now a successful doctor and surgeon in San Francisco, John is about to join his family on vacation when he bumps his head almost running over a dog and his abilities promptly return. Not knowing what to make of that, he struggles to come to terms with it all and panics trying to hide his secret from others until he can't. Meanwhile, John's colleagues are trying to set up a meeting with the owner of a medical company who has shown interest in purchasing John's practice. When a tiger from a circus shows signs of a possible neurological issue, John has to decide whether to step in and save its life, others be damned, or try to live a normal life.
There's not much more to this light-hearted comedy story-wise and, in fact, the tiger plot only really becomes relevant right at the end, with two thirds of the film dedicated to John Dolittle freaking out about his animal chats. Dr. Dolittle was a box-office hit, hot off the success of The Nutty Professor a couple of years earlier, and Eddie Murphy proved once again that he could single-handedly elevate material that, in lesser hands, might not have worked well at all. Unfortunately, Dr. Dolittle lacks the laughs that The Nutty Professor delivered and feels very slight in comparison. The animals, who are sometimes CG'ed, sometimes puppets, and voiced by the likes of Chris Rock, Norm MacDonald and Albert Brooks, get the bulk of the lines here but they're rarely funny.
The writing is the main problem with this movie which, not only lacks genuine laughs but fails to give Eddie Murphy anything to work with, though he definitely does his best to keep things entertaining at least. Not to mention that John Dolittle doesn't so much go on an adventure as he does whine and complain for an hour about what is obviously a very cool power to have. This routine gets tiresome fast and, even though the supporting cast is solid (Oliver Platt, Peter Boyle, Jeffrey Tambor, Paul Giamatti), they're only really there to fill time until the inevitable animal fart joke and keep the non-kids who are watching this from giving up on it completely.
This Dr. Dolittle is harmless enough and younger viewers will be reasonably entertained but this needed a stronger plot, perhaps one focused on the tiger at the circus, and a lot more laughs to make it worth sitting through because, as it stands, this is just not very good.