Review: Furries funny, humans not in 'Dolittle 2'
By Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- At the very least, you can believe the title of "Dr. Dolittle 2": Eddie Murphy, reprising his role as the good doctor, definitely does little -- except make faces and pretend to talk to a series of wise-cracking animals. The actors playing his family do little more.
Still, thanks to the wildlife, this is a well-intentioned and fairly inventive kids' movie. The so-so plotting eventually takes a back seat to a cast of talented comedians and comic actors who lend their voices to the animals. The dialogue is more than the usual string of pop culture references that are supposed to be "funny" simply because you can recognize them.
As the story opens, Dolittle has come to accept his amazing ability to converse with wildlife. He's now a celebrity, and has all kinds of furry creatures running around his home. It makes for an often hilarious hubbub. Highlights include a wine-swilling monkey (voiced by Phil Proctor) who swears he's drinking Gatorade, a chameleon (Jacob Vargas) who isn't as adept at camouflage as he thinks he is, and a Mafioso raccoon (Michael Rapaport) who speaks in flowery underworld argot.
Though there's not much room for Murphy to surprise, he effortlessly convinces you that the effects-heavy scenes you're watching are happening in the real world, just as he did in "The Nutty Professor" and its potty-minded sequel.
Smarmy lawyers and motorcycle-riding bears
Rapaport's raccoon asks Dolittle to follow him to his home turf, a forest that's overseen by a Godfather-like beaver (Richard C. Sarafian). There, Dolittle is informed that a developer and his lawyer (Jeffrey Jones and Kevin Pollak) are about to cut down the area's trees, thus leaving scores of animals homeless.
In desperation, a plan is concocted. Dolittle will recruit Archie (Steve Zahn), a dim-witted, showbiz-loving circus bear, to take up residence in the forest. The doctor will then teach Archie how to survive in the wild, and try to convince him to mate with Ava (Lisa Kudrow), a local female bear. Both Archie and Ava are endangered species, so their theoretical offspring would turn the forest into a protected habitat.
And that's about it. Once Dolittle moves his wife (Kristen Wilson) and daughters (the crabby Raven-Symone and sweet Kyla Pratt) to a cabin in the woods, the story line turns into a lengthy stretch of running-in-place. An assortment of animals say and do an assortment of silly things, with the humor dwindling considerably once you get accustomed to the spectacle.
At this point, those mean ol' businessmen pretty much disappear from the movie, as Dolittle attempts to teach Archie things like how to hibernate and fish on his own. Of course, America's children have never been known to pack theaters to see Jeffrey Jones and Kevin Pollak act smarmy. Motorcycle-riding bears, however, are another story.
Pads, paws and bores
Archie is practically the movie's star, and Zahn does everything he can with screenwriter Larry Levin's sarcastic chatter. At first, Archie is a cross between Gentle Ben and a Las Vegas lounge act. Hardly the brightest bulb in the wilderness, he's apt to fall into an off-key disco tune when you least expect it, and he's lacking in the survival instincts normally attributed to bears.
The film gives him some sweet moments: When Dolittle teaches Archie how to fish, the bear sticks his head underwater, gawks at his would-be food, and almost drowns. Afterwards, Archie marvels that he saw his "grandma" during his near-death experience.
If only the humans were as charming. Wilson is a beautiful woman and a talented performer, but she's basically playing a harried sitcom mom. And you'd be harried too if you were saddled with Symone for a daughter. Her character is so endlessly peeved at nothing, you wish Murphy would send her to a military school. Fortunately, recording artist Lil' Zane, as her faux streetwise boyfriend, lightens the load considerably whenever he makes an appearance.
But the family-based shenanigans are obviously there to pad the movie to feature length. It's pretty hard to tolerate when you're wondering what the talking raccoon is up to.
"Dr. Dolittle 2" is fairly tame ... no pun intended. The land-developing menace barely registers, although wildlife protection is a vital message these days. Like many Murphy films, "Dolittle 2" also has more than its share of potty humor. But the animals never opt for off-color dialogue, even when they probably should. Rated PG.
|Back to the top|