Dr Dolittle 2

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Now an 'animal expert' celebrity, Dr. Dolittle is drawn into a fight to save a local forest from developers. His only hope is to find a mate for Ava, one of an endangered species of bear in the forest. Enter circus bear Archie, in need of lessons in lurve...


Dr. Dolittle 2 is a prime example of a film made by middle-aged filmmakers because they wanted to make something their kids would enjoy. Light, and vaguely right-on with its eco-friendly messaging, this sequel to 1998's blockbuster is better than the first movie, but is still a long way from the Toy Storys and Shreks of this world.

The central plot strand of Dolittle helping Archie (voiced by Steve Zahn) – a bear whose Circus act involves renditions of I Will Survive – woo Ava (Lisa Kudrow) lacks the comedic verve to sustain interest. Of the supporting menagerie, best of the bunch is a Joe Pesci-esque racoon (Michael Rapaport), right-hand mammal to The God Beaver (Richard C. Sarafian). If not raising the bar set by the same month's Cats & Dogs, the visual effects are convincing, rendering animals as fully dextrous, articulate characters.

Like most Hollywood movies, it seems to have been designed to cut across every demographic. For the kiddies, there are lots of cute animals and tons of toilet humour – including one particularly unfunny set-piece involving bear diarrhoea; for the (young) teens there is a romance between Dolittle daughter Charisse and pizza delivery boy Eric (a likeable Zane), and an R 'n' B soundtrack; for the adults, there is a sub-plot about Dolittle struggling to connect with his wife and daughter, and a host of pop culture references, such as voguish danger boy Steve Irwin's run-in with a crocodile, and licks from The Sopranos, Star Wars, The Silence Of The Lambs, Rocky and Top Gun, to name a few.

Better as a talking animal (Mulan, Shrek) than talking to animals, Murphy remains an engaging centre, never letting the sentimental level rise too high. But it is still a lamentable fact that Murphy has suppressed his edgy talents to flog family fodder. Still, his kids will probably love it.

A likeable, sporadically funny movie that will satisfy the less demanding tot. But nice comic touches, good effects and a solid turn by Murphy cannot mask its perfunctory nature.