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'Dr. Dolittle 2'

Grin and bear it Once again, Eddie Murphy has a way with the animals in 'Dr. Dolittle 2'

Friday, June 22, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Dr. Dolittle is still talking to the animals, and they're talking back. Singing, even. The lead animal, a circus performer named Archie, breaks into a chorus of "I Will Survive," prompting the good doc to crack, "You're not a real bear. You're Wayne Newton in a suit."

 
    'Dr. Dolittle 2'

RATING: PG for language and crude humor

STARRING: Eddie Murphy

DIRECTOR: Steve Carr

CRITIC'S CALL: 2 1/2 stars

 
 

For part of the time, he is Timothy Ralston or Nameer El Kadi in a bear suit, or an animatronic animal. But for most of the movie, he is a real 800-pound bear named Tank, with the goofy voice of actor Steve Zahn. Tank is the designated successor to Bart, star of "The Edge" and "Legends of the Fall," who died last year.

"Dr. Dolittle 2," a sequel to the successful 1998 comedy, returns Eddie Murphy to the title role. His ability to talk to a tortoise or communicate with a crocodile has brought him worldwide fame -- among animals and humans. When clear-cutting threatens the forest home of a flock of animals, they turn to Dolittle for help. He's busy trying to reconnect with his 16-year-old daughter (Raven - Symone) who is dating a pizza delivery driver (Lil' Zane) and plotting her escape from the family's zany San Francisco household in two years.

With the help of his lawyer wife (Kristen Wilson), Dolittle manages to buy a little time before developers can proceed. If he can return a domesticated bear named Archie to the wild and get him to mate with another nearly extinct Pacific Western bear, the trees can be saved.

But Archie is a celebrity performing bear who doesn't have any survival skills. He can't swim, fish, forage for food or embrace the concept of hibernation. "You want me to sleep for six months with a cork in my butt?" an incredulous Archie asks. "Dr. Dolittle" follows Archie's attempts to shake off his civilized habits and get down and dirty in the wild.

"Dr. Dolittle" traffics in bathroom humor (the bear ends up in a restaurant men's room, for instance) but it's far cleaner than its predecessor, which suffered from an overload of butt jokes. That comedy was rated PG-13; this movie is PG, which means the quotient of potentially offensive material is low, although a couple of lines are clearly double entendres. Murphy, who juggled eight characters in "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," plays opposite Archie with aplomb and his usual impeccable comic timing.

At a preview screening this week, some of the children seemed to squirm when the animals temporarily vanished from the screen. Those scenes are few and far between, however.

But much of "Dr. Dolittle" has an obviously fake look to it; the close-up scenes in the forest apparently were shot on a California soundstage. The voices of the forest Mafia sound like they belong to extras in "The Sopranos," and adults may not find the animal antics as funny or sly as anything in "Shrek," which had a little something for everyone, along with eye-popping animation.

But if you've seen "Shrek" and "Atlantis" and are looking for a harmless comedy that promotes family harmony and four-legged friends, "Dr. Dolittle 2" may be the prescription.

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