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Dr. Dolittle (also written as Doctor Dolittle) is a 1998 American fantasy comedy film directed by Betty Thomas, written by Larry Levin and Nat Mauldin, and starring Eddie Murphy in the main role, Ossie Davis, and Oliver Platt. The film was based on the series of children's stories of the same name by Hugh Lofting, but used no material from any of the novels; the main connection is the titular character Dr. John Dolittle and his ability to talk to animals, although the Pushmi-Pullyu, a much-loved feature of the books, notably makes a very brief appearance in a couple of scenes. The first novel, The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920) had originally and previously been filmed in 1967 as a musical of the same name, which was a closer (albeit still very loose) adaptation of the book. The 1967 film was a box office bomb, but became a cult classic.

Plot

In 1968, five-year old John Dolittle displays an ability to hear what animals are saying, starting with his own dog. John asks his dog questions like: "Why do dogs sniff each other's butts?" and the dog's response is that it is their own way of shaking hands, and John does it when meeting his new principal. His behavior concerns his father Archer, who hires a local priest to perform an exorcism on John in order to remove the "devil" from him. During the exam, the dog bites and attacks the man, resulting in Archer sending the dog away. Following this ordeal, John eventually stops talking to animals.

Thirty years later in 1998, John becomes a doctor and a surgeon, while living in San Francisco, California. He is happily married to his wife Lisa, and has two daughters, typical teenager Charisse, and nerdy Maya, who has a pet guinea pig named Rodney, and what she believes is a swan egg, which she hopes will bond with her upon hatching. A large medical company owned by Mr. Calloway seeks to buy John's practice, a deal in which one of his colleagues, Dr. Mark Weller, is enthusiastic about, though their other colleague, Dr. Gene Reiss, is skeptical about the deal due to the potential of downsizing patients and staff.

John's family goes on vacation, while John goes back to work to see a patient, and then pick up Rodney. On his way home, he accidentally nearly hits a dog with his SUV, causing the dog to shout at him in anger. Afterwards, as John is driving to the cabin his family is at with Rodney in the car, Rodney starts talking to John, causing him to believe he is having a mental breakdown. John has a CT scan after animals start asking for favors when he helps a wounded owl, and he then unwittingly adopts the dog he ran over, eventually naming him Lucky. John later starts secretly helping various animals, including a suicidal circus tiger named Jake, who suffers great cerebral vein. Through all this, John begins learning to re-appreciate his gift, at one point confiding to both Lucky and Mark that he has never felt excited about his work in years. However, Lisa and Mark catch him performing CPR on a rat, and have him sectioned in a mental hospital.

Believing his gift is a hindrance, John rejects all abnormality in his life and returns to work, but in doing so, ostracizes Maya as well, who comes to believe he dislikes her. Maya admits to Archer that she liked the idea of her father talking to animals, and John has a change of heart when he eavesdrops on the conversation. He admits to Maya that he does not like, but loves her for who she is, and encourages her to continue being what she wants to be.

John then apologizes to Lucky, and together, they sneak Jake out of the circus and take him to the hospital to perform surgery on him, on the same night a party is going on where Calloway will buy the company. Mark and Gene catch John, but Gene tires of Mark's greedy attitude and chooses to assist John. Soon, Jake is exposed in front of everyone at the party, and they all watch as John and Gene operate on Jake in the operating theater. Archer reveals to Lisa that John's gift is real, encouraging her to venture into the theater and keep Jake calm while John and Gene remove the cause of pain, saving Jake's life. John then declines Calloway's offer to buy the place and officially accepts his gift of talking to animals.

John becomes both a doctor and a veterinarian afterwards, embracing his ability to talk to animals. Maya's egg hatches into a baby alligator, and the final scene shows John and Lucky walking on the street together.

Cast

Live-action cast

  • Eddie Murphy as Dr. John Dolittle, a physician who can talk to animals.
    • Dari Gerard Smith as 5-year-old John
  • Ossie Davis as Grandpa Archer Dolittle, the father of John.
  • Oliver Platt as Dr. Mark Weller, a colleague of John.
  • Peter Boyle as Mr. Calloway, a man who seeks to buy John's practice.
  • Kristen Wilson as Lisa Dolittle, the wife of John.
  • Kyla Pratt as Maya Dolittle, the nerdy daughter of John.
  • Raven-Symoné as Charisse Dolittle, the teenage daughter of John.
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Dr. Fish
  • Richard Schiff as Dr. Gene Reiss, a colleague of John.
  • Steven Gilborn as Dr. Sam Litvack
  • June Christopher as Diane
  • Paul Giamatti (uncredited) as Blaine Hammersmith
  • Don Calfa (uncredited) as Patient at Hammersmith
  • Pruitt Taylor Vince (uncredited) as Patient at Hammersmith

Voice cast

  • Norm MacDonald as Lucky, a dog that John adopts.
  • Chris Rock as Rodney, a guinea pig owned by the Dolittle family.
  • Royce Applegate as 'I love you' Dog
  • Albert Brooks as Jacob "Jake", a Bengal tiger.
  • Hamilton Camp as a pig
  • Jim Dean as a Spanish-speaking orangutan
  • Ellen DeGeneres as John's childhood dog
  • Jeff Doucette as an opossum
  • Brian Doyle-Murray as an old beagle
  • Chad Einbidnder as Bettelheim, a cat.
  • Jenna Elfman as an owl
  • Eddie Frierson as skunk
  • Gilbert Gottfried as a compulsive dog
  • Archie Hahn as a heavy woman's dog
  • Phyllis Katz as a goat
  • Julie Kavner as a female pigeon
  • John Leguizamo as Rat #2
  • Jonathan Lipnicki as a tiger cub
  • Kerrigan Mahan as a penguin
  • Philip Proctor as the Drunk Monkey
  • Paul Reubens as a raccoon
  • Reni Santoni as Rat #1
  • Garry Shandling as a male pigeon
  • Tom Towles as a German Shepherd

Puppeteers

  • Bill Barretta
  • Kevin Carlson
  • Bruce Lanoil
  • Drew Massey
  • Allan Trautman - lead puppeteer
  • Ian Tregonning
  • Mak Wilson

Box Office

Dr. Dolittle was a box office success, although it received mixed reviews from critics upon release. On its opening weekend, Dr. Dolittle earned $29,014,324 across 2,777 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #1 at the box office, the best debut for a Fox film that week. By the end of its run, the film had grossed $144,156,605 in the United States and $150,300,000 internationally, totaling $294,456,605 worldwide. The film's success generated one theatrical sequel, Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), and three films released direct to video: Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006), Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief (2008), and Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (2009).

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