Dr Dolittle 2 Movie Review

"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.)

All the animals in the forest are counting on him, but there's a problem with his mating pair: One is a picky forest female (with Lisa Kudrow's voice) and the other is a whiny and inept circus-trained male (Steve Zahn, "Out of Sight," "Saving Silverman") who has lived his whole life in show biz and is none too keen on all this primitive fishing, foraging and hibernating stuff.

Zahn is a riot in voicing Archie the bear, who steals the movie as Dolittle fights an uphill battle trying to turn him into the kind of Alpha male who could win the heart of the female. But most of the movie's laughs come from incidental asides by the movie's animal stars, like Pepito the chameleon (Jacob Vargas) who has lost his color-changing ability, and Joey the raccoon (Michael Rapaport) who is a flunky for a mammal Mafioso -- a beaver with a New Jersey accent.

Norm MacDonald returns as the voice of Lucky, the cynical stray dog from the "Dr. Dolittle" remake. He also provides the aforementioned lame voiceover, which becomes quickly grating and helps demonstrate how a waggish talking menagerie isn't enough to carry a movie.

Of course, "Dr. Dolittle 2" has Eddie Murphy going for it as well, and he isn't about to be upstaged by voices and the snappy CGI effects that give his co-stars moving mouths and expressive faces. He gets in his fair share of comedy moments, especially when butting heads with his 16-year-old daughter (Raven-Symone) in an otherwise flimsy subplot that pits over-protective father against stereotypically hip-hoppy new boyfriend (teen rapper Lil' Zane).

Without question, "Dolittle 2" does entertain, but it just doesn't have enough heart and hardiness to let slide its deficiencies, like Murphy's first "Dr. Dolittle" picture did. The comedy in this outing is propped up by perfunctory exposition and trite pre-fabricated plot obstacles that wouldn't have been necessary if screenwriter Larry Levin (who co-wrote the '98 picture) had put more effort into his work.

Comments

Dr Dolittle 2 Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG, Opened: Friday, June 22, 2001

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