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:: Doctor Dolittle 2

The Nutty Professor 2 came out of the Eddie Murphy comedies, and the second instalment of the remake Doctor Dolittle, has the actor once again play the strange yet likeable expert. The film takes the synopsis of the classic children's story by Hugh Lofting to a new level as Dolittle juggles work and family life. Problems occur for Dolittle when the animal kingdom request help to save their forest home while household woes of a growing eldest daughter cause the father stress.
This is a light entertaining family story suggesting a revolt of nature versus man, but it cannot be taken as a serious comment. Dr Dolittle 2 is directed by Steve Carr, who had music video credits for Moby, Public Enemy and Jay-Z and film debut with the sequel Next Friday. Carr placed recording artist Lil' Zane as boyfriend interest to one of the teenage daughters, and brought with the star music fan base as with the sequel to Friday starring Ice Cube. A rhythm and blues soundtrack that the daughters dance to makes this film marketed to teenagers, and the family. The audience is those that have the family pet, visit the circus and Seaworld and loved Babe.

Along with the funding of Twentieth Century Fox, Dolittle 2 is produced by Davis who produced the first Dr Dolittle in 1998 and similar light comedies such as Grumpy Old Men and Out To Sea as well as a string of differing movies such as Daylight, Waterworld, and Predator. The movie could afford the whim of actor choice and a large string of animal actors requiring trainers and support.
The modern story finds Doctor D in an inner city veterinary clinic, now popular because of the well-known surgeon. His attractive lawyer wife, good-looking teenage daughters, loyal dog and expensive house are an ideal family. Problems in this professional family centre on the father’s relationship with the distancing eldest daughter locatable only by pager and mobile phone. A funny scene centres on a common parental opinion of children's overuse of cellular phones. Dolittle calls a number listed on his daughters phone to find another disgruntled parent answer.

The daughter, played by Raven Symone (who played Olivia in the Cosby Show, Nicole in Hanging With Mr Cooper, and also starred in the 1998 Dr Dolittle), has problems with Doolittle's communication with animals, and can be seen as a representative of a species. The difference between animal lovers and those who use animals is more keenly expressed through the evil characters of developers Potter (Jeffrey Jones) and Kevin Pollack (Jack Riley). Supporters of hunting, the developers callously log the forest for condominiums - people homes, not toilet paper, tissues or office stationary.
The main comparison highlighted is the difference between performance bear Archie and his potential partner wild bear Ava. Archie is an animal used in entertainment that has not known the pleasures of the wild. Dolittle must retrain Archie to exercise and hunt.

Dr Dolittle talks to the animals out loud, and hears them in words supplied for the audience. His importance is of someone who understands the feelings of animals, and the only one who can relay their feelings and stops the developers after green groups and activists had tried. While Dolittle is said to understand animals’ feelings, we are presented with human problems such as the alcoholic monkey. It is difficult for humans to look inside a chameleon’s mind and find more stresses than an inability to camouflage, but if an animal language were developed, the words would still be a lot simpler than the complicated English language. Food, rest, exercise and sex are needs while stresses are (in the natural) territorial. The characters implied in this story humanise animals so they are given a voice, even if it is stupid.

A range of animals is presented in Anne Geddes style cuteness for our enjoyment. Film notes quote over two hundred and fifty animal cast members, in a movie that prides itself on the use of real animals. Tank, the bear that claimed the role of Archie, beat over fifty competitors. This means that over fifty companies, sponsors or individuals own a bear that may be used solely in acting. Respected Hollywood trainer Doug Sues was used for Archie's takes that were filmed alone. Production notes say animals are treated fairly with regular breaks. Animals are rewarded with pat acknowledgment and food. There are even shots that look like they could have been better, but the producers have decided not to push the cast, or save money. Over fifty people, mostly animal trainers were sometimes required to get a good animal take.

Digital animation was used to make the animals mouths move, but its possibilities were not explored. Those that have seen Jurassic Park will understand that the behaviour displayed by extinct species created enough realism to captivate an audience. Advanced animation of current standards, in conjunction with behaviour videos can free animals used in entertainment. This interpretation of Dr Dolittle required bears to stand when talking.

This is a light movie drawing on self-reverential common societal problems as a source of humour. Jokes such as the play on American therapy sessions and problems with sexual drive are in, while the line ‘must be that rap music’ will provide laughter, if as overused as the Star Wars term ‘force’, implied here when training Archie Luke Skywalker style. Another open-air wide shot of Dolittle mimics with Dances with Wolves. Animals are given celebrity voices. Lisa Kudrow plays Ava the bear. Popstar Mandy Moore plays a bear cub. And many other stars lesser known to Aussie screens, make the voices recognisable and cute. Watch out for comments about advertising, Mafia squirrels and the Aussie alligator.

Screening on general release