"Dr. Dolittle 2," a pointless sequel to the 1998 hit, is superior to its hideously misguided predecessor, and yet it's still pretty bad. Aimed more squarely for children than the original (this one is rated PG; the original was PG-13), it is harmless and fluffy, with a few scattershot moments of mild amusement. It is also painfully routine, more often boring than not, and instantly forgettable.
Dr. John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy), the famous veterinarian who has the gift of being able to understand what animals say, is back, along with his lawyer wife, Lisa (Kristen Wilson), and two children, Charisse (Raven-Symone) and Maya (Kyla Pratt). When a forest is threatened to be torn down by a nasty land developer (Jeffrey Jones), Dr. Dolittle is given a month to perform the impossible: take a circus bear (voiced by Steve Zahn) and get him to mate with a country bear (Lisa Kudrow).
Written by Larry Levin and directed by Steve Carr (2000's despicable "Next Friday"), "Dr. Dolittle 2" is placed firmly in the category of "unnecessary sequel." The premise of saving land from being torn down is as old as the hills, and doesn't help matters; certainly a more original idea could have been concocted if a follow-up had to be made.
The various interactions between the doctor and the animals are predictable and too often tiresome. While children may enjoy much of this, it doesn't successfully carry over for the adult audience, which all good family films do. Better is a subplot involving the rocky relationship between the doctor and his 16-year-old daughter, Charisse, who has begun to date. This section of the movie does away with the main attraction of the animals, but it also offers up a fairly accurate, if PG-rated view, of the growing pains of an adolescent. It is surprising to see Raven-Symone, who once played little Olivia on TV's "The Cosby Show," all grown up, and she certainly has the charisma of an actress with a definite future in films.
As for Eddie Murphy, does he really have nothing to do anymore than make sequels to successful first pictures? Last year it was the perfectly dreadfully "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," and now it is "Dr. Dolittle 2." Since he is so clearly upstaged by the animal performers, and doesn't get nearly enough comedic material for himself, Murphy's role could have been played by anyone and it wouldn't have made a bit of difference. Likewise, the film itself could have never been made, and it wouldn't have been missed. If anything, it could have saved millions of wasted dollars.
©2001 by Dustin Putman