Bring the Pooper Scooper!
"Why do dogs sniff each other's butts?"
How's that for scintillating dialogue? The Show Biz Maven refuses to beat around the fire
hydrant with this one, cautioning audiences to bring the pooper-scooper to "Doctor
Doolittle." Think what you like, but your Show Biz Maven was uncomfortable in the
movie theatre surrounded by a bunch of hyenas - and I'm not referring to the animals. This
is what happens when you see a film that's raunchy and rude, and that has little in common
with the 1967 version starring the elegant Rex Harrison as the highbred doctor who has a
charming way with animals.
Now it's Eddie Murphy's turn to play Dr. John Doolittle, a family physician who treats
wounded creatures appearing magically at the house he shares with his wife and two
daughters. Trying to conceal his unique power of conversing with the animal kingdom, he
excuses himself with lame gags that portray him as someone on the brink of a nervous
Where does a man like Dr. John Doolittle get such extraordinary powers? This is really the
question that screenwriters Nat Mauldin and Larry Levin attempt to answer with a
flashback. We see Murphy as a little boy talking with his pet pooch, his only friend,
while his father (Ossie Davis) is looking worried that his son will never mature. His
answer is to give away the dog, and while we remember this scene, Murphy seems to blank
out his past rather than rebel against it.
Years later, we see Doctor Doolittle as successful but bored. He has a steady clientele
but they're all painted as buffoons in an effort to dispense with the giggles. When the
doctor and his partners are offered a buy-out through a big conglomerate, Murphy seems
relieved, eager to change his life.
Enter the animals! A scruffy dog named Lucky is nearly run over by Doolittle and lets him
know how stupid he is. "Are you talking to ME?" (Sorry, wrong movie)
Understandably, Murphy fights the temptation to believe. He rationalizes that he's
overworked until his daughter's pet guinea pig nudnicks him. That's it! Before you know
it, he's overrun by pets with problems. The real problem, and this is according to your
Show Biz Maven, is that the animals were made to work overtime by the studio, and probably
did speak among themselves about what to do. That's why we might be seeing a sequel
starring Sally Field, a union organizer who has a love affair with an owl who tells her
that he really likes her.
But the Show Biz Maven digresses. On the plus side, director Betty Thomas keeps things
afoot so to speak, yet even Murphy's downplaying doesn't do the trick in capturing the
essence of a once enchanting story. Unfortunately, today's rendering can't disclose the
cheap shots disguised as humor:
A thermometer gets stuck up a cat's
Pigeons unleash doo doo at unsuspecting victims
A guinea pig gets flushed down the toilet
A rat gasses it up and Doolittle gives it mouth-to-mouth
As the film's backdrop, San Francisco is wasted and misused, but not
as misused as Hugh Lofting's lovely 1920s stories about a kind hearted doctor who walks,
talks, and squawks with the animals.
With love & knishes from your Show Biz Maven.
# # #