Doctor Dolittle (1967)
A story that's too fascinating to pass by...
It's a good bad... and worth a popcorn matinée. While it's easy to lament what could have been...
Although I seem to have had higher expectations than I thought, the movie is super entertaining.
All of these films share one commonality, that being a kind of emotional center that humanizes a cast of monsters.
As an animal lover, I very much enjoyed Dr. Doolitle (1967). It's an enjoyable Comedy/Adventure/Musical/Fantasy movie about Dr. Doolitle, the animal doctor, and his journey to find the Great Pink Sea Snail in order to improve on his skills in animal languages. I gave this film a 6/10 because the vintage settings are authentic and beautiful, the overall message of the film, and the cinematography is excellent. The criticisms that I have are that some of the characters were boring, some songs were dull and there are some very corny and unfunny moments. The movie begins on a fishing deck in the middle of a town where the houses are yellow-brown brick and conjoined together with triangular rooftops, chimneys, and a sign reading "Fundlesy Clay". Dr. Doolite's home is not how you would expect an average veterinarian's home to look. Across the bridge and past, a small garden is Dr. Doolitle's brick house. There is a large doorbell and an engraved wooden and brass sign with his name on it on the wooden door. Inside his home, you will find all kinds of animals, such as pigs, monkeys, parrots, roosters, horses, donkeys, owls, sheep, ducks, rabbits, hedgehogs, cats, and dogs walking and sitting inside and outside.The message of the film is about why we treat animals different from humans even though humans are animals as well. Dr. Doolite is a proud vegetarian who speaks to animals. When he was in court and presented his case in an attempt to prove that he is able to speak to animals, the judge decided to sentence Dr. Doolite to an insane asylum. He claims the reason in that he treats animals like humans and then Dr. Doolite goes into a song explaining why we should not kill and eat animals, and rather treat them like people.The cinematography of the film is great. The director cuts to the new actors very smoothly when a new person is speaking or when something new has been introduced. The camera pans slowly onto Dr. Doolitle while he speaks the most important parts. While reading this book in the library after he is released from jail, the camera switches back and forth between Dr. Doolitle and Emma while they are conversing in a very smooth and professional manner. The film is 152 minutes long. Adults may find some parts to be very immature humour or very corny. For example, there is a scene where Dr. Doolitle is singing what appears to be a love song to a baby seal in a stroller. Also, although some of the songs are humorous, short, sweet, and catchy, others are not. There are some songs in the film that I think should have been taken out completely. The characters, other than Dr. Doolitle, are boring and uninteresting. Their motives, strengths, and weakness are unclear as most characters in the film are not very dynamic.I would recommend this movie to people who enjoy musicals. The film definitely gets better after the 1-hour mark. It is a good film to watch when you had a long day and just want to shut off your brain and enjoy a film with your family. The comedy is light and easy but there are definitely some funny moments. The animals are enjoyable, especially the two-headed llama.I gave this film 6/10 stars because it was not nearly as good as I was hoping that it would be. The areas that I think that could be improved would definitely be that Tommy, Lady Petherington, and Matthew were all very boring characters. Some more detail could have been added to bring them to life. There were only 1 or 2 songs that I really enjoyed and found catchy in the film and some of the jokes made in the film seemed a tad lazy. The parts that made the film good were the cinematography, the settings, and the overall message of the film.
After watching this movie yesterday, and, then reading all of the poor reviews and negative online information about it...I just cannot believe it!?!?This movie, to me, has a wonderful cast; storyline; music; animal choreography; scenery; props; settings; etc...everything there is to like about a movie, and nothing to dislike. Yet, it was a commercial and critical failure!?!? I realize that this movie went over-budget; had many mishaps while in production; took a bath at the box office and with its merchandise; but, I feel the end result was a great children's classic movie.Personally, I believe that it did so poorly was because this movie is a bit too complex for the young audience it was made to target; and, it is too silly for teens and adults. Also, musicals were on their way out at this time. In 1967, teens wanted to hear The Rolling Stones and The Beatles sing, not, Rex Harrison and Anthony Newly; whereas, most parents (adults in general) can understand someone talking to a horse or a cat, but, talking to a snail or a flea!?!?If this movie was made twenty or more years earlier (somewhere in between "The Wizard Of Oz" and "Carousel"), it would have received much better reviews and been a money-maker. It's the same as when "Pennies From Heaven" was made in 1981, it bombed, sadly...it was out-of-style and people just didn't get it. Then, again, "Fantasia" (1940) was even panned by many musicians claiming "it (robbed) the musical pieces of their integrity."Someone always has something bad to write or say about most anything, however, I happen to like musicals; plus, with this movie being a childhood favorite of mine, maybe I'm being a tad too positively-biased, but...I love it!
The thing about getting older is that nostalgia begins to rear its head and one looks at films from one's youth through a haze of sentimentality. Back in 1967 when I was ten years old, "Doctor Dolittle" was all over the place. Toys, dolls, games and posters were everywhere, and the radio and TV variety shows were full of Sammy Davis Jr. singing "If I Could Talk to the Animals." Even with all of this, "Doctor Dolittle" seemed just the kind of family entertainment that I tended to avoid. Now, more than 40 years later, I've finally got around to seeing the film, but I'm no closer to knowing if I would have liked it any better at age ten.The problem with the film seems to be one of mistaken premises. Studios looked at "The Sound of Music," "Mary Poppins" and "My Fair Lady" and tried to duplicate their success, but they seemed to have paid attention to all the wrong things.The adaptation of a popular children's book (like "Mary Poppins") was a good idea, but rather than attempt to recreate the rather dumpy doctor described in the books ("Mary Popping"s David Tomlinson would have been great, but he lacked marquee value, likewise "Dolittle"s, circus-owner, Richard Attenborough would have made a great Dolittle certainly a livelier one) they opted for the stiff and starchy Rex Harrison. The actor's lack of warmth may have fit the character's unease with humans, but his clear disinterest in anyone else in the film comes across as merely distant and bored. The apathetic Harrison doesn't even try to make Dolittle even a little bit different from "My Fair Lady"s Professor Higgins. Coming across solidly as a misanthrope, he fails also to demonstrate any real rapport with the menagerie of animals on display.The charmless Harrison was greatly helped by the winning softness of Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady." Here Harrison has zero chemistry with Anthony Newly (whom it's reported he disliked for being Jewish) nor the requisite veddy-British female love interest, Samantha Eggar who is not only waaaay to young for him, but, despite her stunning looks, adds absolutely nothing to the film because she seems even more distracted and bored than Harrison. Lastly, there is a mush-mouthed little boy thrown in for no apparent reason (William Dix) beyond giving Newly someone remotely human to give plot exposition to.The songs from "Mary Poppins" and, to a somewhat lesser extent, "The Sound of Music" had the quality of being witty and smart while having a sing-song, nursery-rhyme quality that made it easy for kids to remember and want to sing along. The undistinguished collection of songs in "Doctor Dolittle" sound more like they were written with hopes of becoming standards or Oscar contenders than on being anything that kids might find fun to listen to.From beginning to end "Doctor Dolittle" is a clumsy musical almost on par with "Lost Horizon" in its inability to entertain on even the simplest levels. I think fans of Rex Harrison may like the movie, for it is what he does film after film, and it is a pretty good showcase for the phenomenon that was Anthony Newly (an oddly fascinating actor/singer whose unconventional looks and singing style could only have made it in the 60s), but "Doctor Dolittle" is dreary when it should be cheerful, lumbering when it should be light-hearted, and long-long-long. If the filmmakers were less cynical about tapping into the "The Sound of Music" money-making zeitgeist and more concerned with actually making a fun children's classic, there's no telling how much could have been done musically with the "Doctor Dolittle" books.
I can't be as kind as many of the other commenters. I didn't see it when it first came out, although, I was inundated with the "Talk With the Animals" song everywhere I turned. Seems like we even played it in our junior high band.I was under the impression that this was the most heralded musical in history with regard to the hype surrounding it. It was only recently that I realized that it was panned by the critics.I finally watched it on Turner Movie Classics and realized what a "snoozer" it was. I kept thinking there might be some romance between someone in the film - Samantha Eggar and Rex Harrison... Samantha Eggar and Anthony Newley... Samantha Eggar and Geoffery Holder... Samantha Eggar and the Push-Me-Pull-You... Anthony Newley and Geoffery Holder... anything that would give this story a little life.Rex Harrison is a great actor and carried this exhausting effort as bravely and heartily as he possibly could, however, in the end, it was a pointless story that dragged on and on and on."Talk to the Animals" was a reasonably good song for a musical, however, the rest of the songs rated "banal" in my estimation. Even Anthony Newly couldn't seem to pull it out of the fire with his pleasant voice and apt song styling.It seems that the only thing that might have held children (since it was a family movie) would have been the animals, which weren't really used all that dramatically.As much as I admire the actors who performed in this insipid tale, I have to say, it barely held my interest. My apologies to those who truly loved this movie.