Hotel for Dogs clearly wants to rank alongside films such as Anna to the Infinite Power, The Goonies, E.T., and Radio Flyer, films that balanced lighthearted playfulness with a darker, grittier reality. Like the recent Spiderwick Chronicles, Hotel for Dogs plays all the same Spielberg/Donner riffs (a cast of doe-eyed youngsters wise beyond their years dressed in corduroy and plaid, moments of adult menace cut with "oh, thank goodness" relief) and even apes the look of these early '80s flicks. Yet for all its nostalgic bravado, the film never feels more than surface, more than flash.
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Love and Basketball concerns Monica Wright (Sanaa Lathan), a basketball loving girl who wants nothing more than to be the first woman in the NBA. Her next door neighbor, Quincy McCall (Omar Epps) is the son of a NBA player and wants nothing more than to follow in his father's footsteps and get some booty along the way. When he realizes (at about age 18) that the booty he has been wanting all along has been living next door, he quickly hooks up with her. Both find themselves going to USC and both find themselves on the USC basketball teams.
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The original Eddie Murphy comedy Dr. Dolitte was a lukewarm and tepid yet entertaining movie filled with cheap laughs, terrible acting, and a painful reminder of Murphy's slow decent into another slump. But alas, the studio gods spoke and a sequel became unavoidable when the original Dr. Dolittle (er, the original Eddie Murphy Dolittle, itself being a remake) grossed over $290 million dollars worldwide -- not including sales from the hip-hop soundtrack.
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So, when I first heard Hollywood was remaking Fat Albert, I had high hopes for this live-action version of one of my favorite old-school cartoons. Maybe, just maybe, it could be a clever, slightly-edgy spoof a la The Brady Bunch Movie. Sadly, Fat Albert turns out to be just a bloated and feeble after-school special that's even too sappy for kids.
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"Dr. Dolittle 2" is one of those comedy sequels slapped together by a lazy screenwriter who thinks as long he's scattered a significant number of good laughs here and there, the clumsy carelessness of the mechanical and pandering plot should be forgiven.
It is consistently funny and occasionally downright hilarious, thanks entirely to its ample supply of wisecracking critters. But the story needs a lame voice-over as a crutch to get from Point A to Point B (sample: "...and so the big day finally came...") and the plot lurches forward on a gimmick and a prayer. Director Steve Carr ("Next Friday") seems to assume his young target audience isn't bright enough to notice such things and that their parents will excuse him with the mantra "it's just a kid's movie."
The gimmicky plot concerns Dr. Dolittle (Eddie Murphy reprising his 1998 role), the San Francisco physician who can talk to the animals, trying to get two endangered-species bears to mate because their proliferation will legally block a fiendish lumber company from clear-cutting their Northern California forest home. (The gimmick also serves as a heavy-handed, politically correct sermon, seemingly obligatory in half-baked kiddie flicks.)
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