Doctor Dolittle (1967)
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Rex Harrison, although not at all like the portly man described in Hugh Lofting's charming series of children's stories, is sheer perfection as the kindly animal doctor in Leslie Bricusse's musical fantasy Doctor Dolittle. Sadly, Harrison is the only thing nearing perfection in this overstuffed and over-mounted fiasco that nearly brought down 20th Century Fox. Considered a lunatic because he can converse in 498 animal dialects, Dolittle gathers up his friends Matthew Mugg (Anthony Newley) and Emma Fairfax (Samantha Eggar) and heads off on a journey to the South Seas to find the elusive great pink snail and the giant lunar moth. Along the way, the group encounters a succession of bizarre human and animal characters -- most notably the legendary pushme-pullyou, an animal so freakish that it compels Albert Blossom (Richard Attenborough) to burst out into the exuberant song, "I've never Seen Anything Like It in My Life." Incredibly, the film was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 1967. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for Doctor Dolittle
Leslie Bricusse's adaptation retains the delightful aspects while taking considerable liberty with the plot. His music and lyrics, while containing no smash hits, are admirably suited to the scenario.
It's so clumsy and pounding that taking a child to it might be grounds for a visit from family services.
[It] almost bankrupted the studio when audiences stayed away in droves. In retrospect, it's not hard to see why.
The music is not exceptional, the rendering of the songs lacks variety, and the pace, under Richard Fleischer's direction, is slow and without surprise. Indeed, toward the end it is perfunctory. Things happen mechanically.
One of the worst films to be ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and one of the weakest Hollywood musicals of the 1960s.
Not even a decent performance from Richard Attenborough can save this disappointing production.
Doctor Dolittle might be a little woolly at times but it's impossible not to be impressed by Rex Harrison and his marvellous menagerie.
Glossy, overlong, but still fun kids' musical with Rex Harrison in good form.
The lush sets and presentation are a big disconnect with the silly story, but that ultimately turns out to be part of the joy of the movie.
A major factor in the death of the film musical.
Audience Reviews for Doctor Dolittle
Yes that's right kids, that hideous Eddie Murphy movie is actually based on a very famous set of children's novels by Hugh Lofting and before the modern revamp came this far far superior children's movie. This film is actually based on three of the Dolittle novels, all fused together, but you'd never have guessed that.
The film feels like its set in stages, first off we meet Matthew Mugg and Tommy Stubbins in the whimsical little English port town of Puddleby-on-the-marsh. Once we the audience are acquainted with this cute couple its off to see the doctor in his typically traditionally beautiful little English cottage on the hill. From there on we watch the trio get stuck in various ordeals involving various animals as they try to raise money to go on a voyage to find the Giant Great Pink Sea-Snail. Eventually the second leg of the movie kicks in as the trio and the obligatory beautiful female set sail into the unknown. The third part of movie would involve the crew getting shipwrecked but finding land, land that conveniently happens to harbour the Pink Sea-Snail.
Where to begin?! I was virtually raised with this film (amongst other classics), as a kid I hated it truth be told, probably down to forced repeat viewings but as I have matured I can see what a fantastic picture it really is. The movie didn't perform too well upon release which really amazed me frankly as I personally think this is way better than say...'Mary bloody Poppins'. It didn't help that Disney's 'Jungle Book' came out around the same time of course.
The village scenes filmed in Wiltshire, UK are absolutely gorgeous to look at they really are, if ever you wanted to see the perfect little olde worlde English hamlet then voila. Unfortunately they had to use sets eventually down to the locals not liking what was happening to their little home but I don't see the issue really. The fishing port mockup with farm animals, cats and period dressed locals is so quaint and lovely looking, probably lots of droppings everywhere but hey come on! different times they were.
There really isn't a scene in the entire movie which isn't bright bold and colourful with excellent detailed props and costumes. The locations were magnificently chosen and really brought the picture to life. You can easily tell the sets of Sea-Star Island compared to the real locations shoots of St Lucia, had it all been sets it clearly would not have been half as spectacular visually. Personally (apart from Puddleby at the start) I think the circus sequences and sets were the most impressive and enjoyable. Being a simple circus tent scenario it wouldn't have been too hard to pull off but you gotta remember everything is period set within the Victorian era. This setting is what makes the movie so attractive to look at with the lavish Victorian decorations sets props costumes etc...Even more so within the circus scenes with classic clowns, strong men, bearded ladies, big butch bald guys...and many with thick waxed moustaches.
Its the circus scenes where I think we see the best performance which is from Attenborough as Albert Blossom the ringmaster. His physical appearance was perfect for the role and the added makeup with obligatory fat tash really nailed this character. His cheerful loud brash ringmaster with a northern accent is a sheer joy to behold as he prances around in that classic top hat and red tails attire, along with his funny little tweed looking suit with breast pocket watch. Its also here we come across the most memorable song 'I've never seen anything like it' sung merrily by Attenborough with all his circus folk in their various colourful patchwork clothes. If your kids don't enjoy these sequences then by thunder I'll...errm be surprised.
Yes the film is a musical much like many of these old classic family films and admittedly no the songs aren't overly memorable (apart from the one I mentioned), but for their scenes they work. The cast in general are good but do pail in comparison to the epic Rex Harrison. Its not all about Harrison though, Anthony Newley is very enjoyable to watch as Irishman Matthew Mugg, the Irish always fit into olde worlde eras well. Samantha Eggar is extremely beautiful and dreamy despite her character being a spoilt pain in the arse and I also liked Geoff Holder as Willie Shakespeare the Sea-Star Island tribal leader...very well spoken. Finally I can't not mention Peter Bull as the fat rich and highly aristocratic General Bellowes who is still quite the intimidating character even after all these years (used to worry me as a kid).
What is also surprising is the amount of practical effects and real animals used (well not really seeing as there was no CGI). They really did have tonnes of various animals all over the place for certain scenes throughout. Many seem to have just been shoved into the scene but obviously some were trained and its quite impressive really. Naturally the larger effects do look hokey as hell nowadays, when I was a kid the Giant Great Pink Sea-Snail always amazed me, now its a bit shitty really. Hey I'm not having a go but its very rigid, it clearly moves awkwardly if at all and it has a weird almost human expression for a face. The Giant Lunar Moth also looks pretty bad these days but the scene hides much of it with darkness so it does work better. Again the overly massive whale that somehow manages to push an entire island looks pretty darn scary in all honesty, its also massively massive...and fake. Despite that they all work in the context of the film, that being a fairytale of wonders...plus it would be so cool if they were real.
Honourable mention to the Tibetan Pushmi-pullyu which I always thought was a real animal when I was very young. As I got older I thought it was a real animal with some kind of effect stuck on it, now I realise its two blokes in a suit...isn't it?! Gotta hand it to them...it looks pretty good, quite realistic...apart from when it starts to dance. Hey its a kids fantasy film people!
The movie is long and crammed packed with story which is both overwhelming but (I think) acceptable. Even though there is lots going on, various sub plots that must be completed before the main plot kicks in like some kind of videogame and quite a few flashbacks and montages...at no point did I ever get confused. The whole premise is so simple and fun personally I don't notice the run time. It all feels like a more in depth version of Disney's 'Bedknobs and Broomsticks' what with all the fanciful objectives and dialog flying about the place.
So if you can ignore the fact that the original novels were supposedly full of racism (take into account when they were written though), and ignore the horrendous 1998 remake and its following direct to DVD sequels (easy to forget this crap trust me), I think this is a great film for all the family. I think Fleischer did a great job directing and Bricusse did a tremendous job of adapting all three novels into the one film. A delightfully charming captivating timeless ride alongside the good doctor and his menagerie of animals.
A long film that drags slightly, but Rex Harrison and his famous speaking singing voice take us into a make believe job with a fun adventure to follow. Whilst Doc Dolittle is a Musical, there were very few songs that were memorable, but the animals and adventure provide the biggest attraction.More
I kinda forgot how LONG this movie is. Some annoyingly catchy songs, but ultimately very dated.More
Doctor Dolittle Quotes
- Matthew Mugg:
- You should never believe anyone who goes around telling the truth. They're not to be trusted.
- Dr. John Dolittle:
- I think as a matter of principle, one should always avoid eating one's friends.
- Matthew Mugg:
- It's against me religion to do anything violent at the end of the day.
- Matthew Mugg:
- I think eating flowers is dangerous.
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