Maybe this is just the mood I’m in after giving 90 minutes of my life to the makers of Dr. Dolittle 2. I think it’s come to the point where we spend our summers at the movies just hoping for a film that won’t relentlessly remind us how dumb we are for trusting movies.
The fantasy detachment of cinematic adventure has been replaced by the fantasy detachment of believing there’s actually something funny about talking animals, or something exciting about quick-cut tomb-raiding exploits, or something romantic about a generic wartime love story.
In our hearts, we know that 95 percent of the films out there are terrible, childish, muddled, deliberately unimaginative wastes of the world’s most wonderful medium of expression. They’re made by people who want to be directors or actors or screenwriters, but who have no hope of doing anything more than poorly replicating what other people have done. As their audience, all we can do is pray that the fireworks of technology and celebrity charisma keep us distracted long enough to forget the essential bankruptcy of what we’re watching.
OK, I’m done. My point is that there are some bad movies that are sneaky about stealing the irreplaceable minutes of your life, and there are others that just stick a gun (or in this case, a talking dog) in your face and take it.
Dr. Dolittle 2, a sequel to one of the drool-down-your-shirt dumbest comedies made in recent years, is the second kind of movie. Against God and nature, the 1998 original (oh, that word used to mean something) made $144 million with a combination of inoffensive pre-packaged humor and Eddie Murphy, both of which return in the sequel.
Murphy is Dr. John Dolittle. Animals talk to him, thanks to computer animation and celebrity voice-overs. People bring animals to him for guidance and cures, turning his San Francisco home into a smelly Lourdes.
On the home front, Dolittle is in conflict with his daughter (Raven-Symone), who just turned 16 and is trying to avoid her embarrassing father. On the animal front, a group of forest creatures wants Dolittle to save the woods from the so-evil-they-have-their-own-theme-music logging company (run by veteran baddies Jeffrey Jones and Kevin Pollak). They come up with a scheme in which Dolittle will serve as a bear pimp. He’ll introduce a circus bear to a wild bear, and then they’ll mate off-camera, and then the forest can’t be torn down.
Every interpersonal nuance of this film could be crammed into the first five minutes of an episode of Moesha. There’s just nothing there. Even by our lowered standards, it’s a shockingly thin frame on which to hang a movie that doesn’t even stretch itself past 90 minutes.
Moreover, it’s simply depressing to see Murphy selling his soul like this, even though it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing. The man knows this movie isn’t funny, he knows he would never pay to see it, and he knows you know he’s doing it solely for the freaking huge paycheck. Murphy does nothing more than play straight man to the various second-tier celebrities giving voice to the scores of animals, who toss off one funny line for every eight clunkers. If you watch closely, you can catch Eddie balancing his checkbook in the background of several scenes.
Sure, it’s a kids’ movie. Sure, kids like fart jokes and shit jokes and big ass jokes. But even the scatology feels counterfeit in this uninspired, lifeless setting. Dr. Dolittle 2 doesn’t even come close to fooling you into thinking it’s worth your 90 minutes … and if it does, you should be ashamed of yourself. Even Hollywood has to try harder than this.
Dr. Dolittle 2 (PG) H Directed by Steve Carr. Starring Eddie Murphy, Kevin Pollak and Raven-Symone.