Doctor Dolittle (1967)

DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1967)
Article 2052 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-27-2006
Posting Date: 3-26-2007
Directed by Richard Fleischer
Featuring Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley

A veterinarian who can talk to animals sets out on a quest to find a giant pink sea snail.

A big-budget musical version of a children’s classic? I went into this one expecting an exercise in excess on the level of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, but such is definitely not the case. This movie projects an air of genteel whimsy, and it never once lets excess destroy this air. Yet therein lies the problem; genteel whimsy is not compelling or exciting, and if a movie is going to maintain interest level over a two-and-a-half-hour running time, it needs something compelling and exciting. But the songs (which aren’t particularly strong in the first place) are underplayed and muted, the dancing is virtually nonexistent (I think the pushme-pullyu has a few steps), the plot is extremely slight, the animals are surprisingly dull (Chee-Chee the chimp doesn’t engage in a single animal antic throughout the movie, and does Gip the dog do anything?), and the crowd scenes mostly have people standing around or doing uninteresting things). The only scene that really tries to instill any energy into the proceedings is an early scene that illustrates why the doctor abandoned his practice on humans, and, unless you really think a series of gags that mostly involve people stepping on the foot of a man with gout to be the height of hilarity, the scene is awful. The end result is that the movie pays the price of avoiding energy and excitement; it becomes terribly dull for much of its running time, despite the fact that it maintains its genteel whimsy. Still, I suspect that, whatever the flaws of this movie, I’d still prefer it to the 1998 Eddie Murphy remake.

 

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