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'Dr. Dolittle 2': Gas Menagerie

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2001

   


    'Dr. Dolittle 2' Eddie Murphy talks to the animals in "Dr. Dolittle 2." (20th Century Fox)
Dr. Dolittle does a lot for the environment in "Dr. Dolittle 2," a wisecracking follow-up to the 1998 tale of the genial multilingual physician. Star Eddie Murphy, who was upstaged by the talking animals in the original, brings bite as well as bark to the funnier sequel.

He squawks the squawk and walks the walk, all with a wink at the grown-ups. But he doesn't spoil the fun for kids, who will be enchanted by the adorable creatures and, aghast as prisspots may be, will roar at the movie's many potty jokes, particularly one involving a flatulent bear.

In this outing, Dr. Dolittle's medical practice has grown out of control, and he's trying to spend more time with his family when he's approached by Joey the raccoon (voiced by Michael Rapaport), consigliere of the God Beaver (Richard C. Sarafian). The beaver wants a meeting with the doctor, who reluctantly bails out on his daughter's birthday party to follow Joey into the woods.

When he meets the God Beaver and his weaselly cronies, Dolittle begins to suspect he's become involved with some kind of animal mafia. "I'm just a simple fisherman who's been blessed with many friends," responds the beaver, who goes on to make an "offer" the kindhearted hero cannot refuse: A heartless developer (Jeffrey Jones) and his smarmy lawyer (Kevin Pollak) are out to make mulch of the animals' wilderness home. And he's their only hope.

Dolittle manages to stay the ax, but only for three weeks, when he learns the tract is the habitat of an endangered species of bear protected by law. Sadly, there's only one female, Ava (voiced by Lisa Kudrow), left in the wild, and unless the doctor can find her a mate, the forest will be razed.

The he discovers Archie (voiced by Steve Zahn), a borscht-belt bear who doesn't know from the call of the wild. He's spent his whole life in show business. Archie was born in a trunk – an elephant's trunk! Ba-da-boom! Okay, so he's not a great comic, but then neither is Deputy Dawg.

It takes some doing, but the doctor persuades Archie to give up his creature comforts and return to the forest by promising him he'll be more famous than Pooh. But it's almost too late. In her desperation for cubs, Ava has taken up dating a hunky kodiak, and the prospects for a happy ending dim when she declines Archie's suit.

Sure, Archie makes her laugh, but Ava wants a bear capable of supporting a family. And she isn't about to be seduced by his terrible rendition of "I Will Survive." There's only one thing to do: Dolittle must help Archie get in touch with his inner grizzly. Now motivated by the first stirrings of love, Archie makes a serious attempt to adapt to the country life, no mean feat for a bear whose turn-ons are long soaks in his tub, his own trailer and a diet of junk food.

While the film also has its Cosby family moments – and would be too thin without the tired subplot about Dad dealing with Daughter's first date – it's carried over the rough spots by the odd coupling of Murphy and Zahn. That's not to negate the contributions of the movie's adorable menagerie, including incidental characters like a pig who whispers "Hello, Clarice" when Dolittle passes his pen.

Despite a subversive sense of humor, "Dr. 2" has its obligatory, perhaps even sincere, messages about respect for not only our own families but also the family of Mother Earth. Talk about unbearable.

"Dr. Dolittle 2" (87 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG for language and crude humor.

 

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