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I know it goes against the general tide to praise this film (the only
place I've ever read a really positive review of it being the back of its
own video cover), but I'm going to do it--and I'll even attach my name!
in my opinion, this musical adaptation by Leslie Bricusse of Hugh
delightful "Doctor Dolittle" series succeeds in a great many respects. I
enchanted as a child when I saw it in the cinema, and I still enjoy
it on video with my own children.
The admittedly meandering plot combines elements from various of the Dolittle books, but it essentially concerns the Victorian veterinarian's quest for the Great Pink Sea Snail, an animal whose language he hopes to add to the thousands he has already learned. Thus the first part of the movie takes Dolittle and his friends through several adventures on their way to earning the money to make the journey, while the second finds the entourage actually setting sail (on the aptly-named "Flounder") for Sea Star Island and their goal. And, even if the musical *is* so front-end-loaded with big numbers that the second half seems anticlimactic, and even if the resolution of the plot's final conflict *is* jarringly abrupt, and even if the film's direction *is* a tad slow, it is *also* the case that I find more than enough pleasures along the way to compensate for these shortcomings.
One is Bricusse's marvelous score. Besides the Academy Award-winning "Talk to the Animals," he includes two other showcase pieces for star Rex Harrison's trademark "powerful patter" delivery, the humorous "Vegetarian" and the impassioned "Like Animals." Other up-tempo winners are "I've Never Seen Anything Like It" (brilliantly put across by Richard Attenborough--the twinkle never leaves his eye!--in what amounts to an extended cameo as wily circus-master Albert Blossom) and "Faraway Places," while tender ballads "When I look in Your Eyes" and "Beautiful Things" are very affecting. And if "After Today" seems to have been pulled from the trunk of another show by mistake, the other Anthony Newly numbers--including "My Friend the Doctor" and "This is the World of Doctor Dolittle" (as well as the lovely "Where are the Words," which is on my soundtrack album but not in the video)--are spot on.
Another pleasure is the cast. As the Doctor, Harrison is wonderful, of course. The film was originally conceived as a reunion project for him and composing team Lerner & Lowe, who'd written "My Fair Lady," and it's clear that the part was written for the star. But I'm impressed that eventual Lerner & Lowe stand-in Bricusse, though he was obviously influenced by "My Fair Lady," resisted what had to be the temptation to turn the main character into Henry Higgins--and that Harrison also didn't see the gig as a mere Higgins reprise. The charming Doctor--kind to animals, children, and people from all walks of life; educated and capable but somehow sweetly clueless at the same time; gentle but rousable to anger on behalf of his charges--is a different character, and Harrison gets him right.
As for the other leads, Anthony Newly, for once, is perfect as the elfin Matthew Mugg, while child actor and "whatever-happened-to" candidate William Dix is a fine if underused Tommy Stubbins. Even Samantha Eggar, in the mis-conceived role of a tentative love-interest for Dolittle, does well with the part she's been given. And strong support is provided by the aforementioned Attenborough, Peter Bull as the beefy English squire who is the closest thing to a villain in this piece, and Geoffrey Holder as Willie Shakespeare, head of a quirkily-PC group of island natives encountered during the voyage.
Finally, there's the appearance of the film: it's beautiful. If you find you can't enjoy a musical unless it's shot on a soundstage, the wide-open spaces won't work for you, but I loved all the wonderful locations.
This is a big movie, long and theatrically-structured (Overture, Act I, Entr'acte, Act II, and even Exit Music!). They don't make them like this anymore--which sounds like a straight line, but I mean it in a regretful way. :-) I recommend "Doctor Dolittle" heartily, and I think the family will enjoy it even more if, before you watch it, you read a couple of the original Dolittle books together first!
[P.S.-- don't be put off this film if you didn't happen to like the similarly-titled 1998 Eddie Murphy vehicle which billed itself as a remake. They're completely different!]
My childhood favorite still holds up! In 1967 I remember sitting in the
theater in awe of this tall Englishman that could sing & talk to
As an adult I can sit and enjoy another brilliant performance by the Late Great Sir Rex Harrison (God bless him!), this time as the Good Doctor Dolittle.
Leslie Bricusse has done a wonderful job combining some of the Hugh Lofting tales into a Big Hollywood Musical! I only wish that all the songs made it to the screen. Two were cut, I guess for time (Where are the words?, Something in your smile) but show up on the soundtrack record & CD. Robert Surtee's photography is gorgeous! It really should have walked away with an Oscar that year.
Richard Fleischer brings it altogether beautifully. His direction is just the right pace, letting us enjoy all the fantasy that is set in front of us. No quick cuts, loud noises - Hell, everything that audiences today never see. There is nothing wrong with taking time telling a story - I wish the new Hollywood understood that.
The circus number with Sir Richard Attenborough is just as entertaining today as it was in 1967. The Pushmi-Pullyu may not hold up to the digital effects of today but it's still just as lovable.
This family film is a treasure and it certainly is more to what Hugh Lofting envisioned compared to the recent Eddie Murphy films.
If you ever have a chance to see this in a Theater - GO!
The DVD has a beautiful transfer - I do wish the DVD had more extras, such as the two songs they cut for the final release. But it should be in the family collection.
Remember it has Rex Harrison in the title role. That alone should give you a reason to see it - If you haven't already
Highly atmospheric and splendidly acted this film is a pure joy to watch. Legendary actor Rex Harrison give one of his best screen performances as the eracable,lovable Doctor. Anthony Newley gets one of his rare screen appearances and shows just what a talented performer he was.And of course Lord Attenbourgh's comic turn as Albert Blossom gives him rare comic opportunity.the score is well done by Leslie Bricusse (Newley's long time collaborator.)And the dialogue is sharp and witty. the performance are extremely real for a childeren's fantasy film. Its a shame that the Eddie Murphy misfire has taken recognition away from this charming film.
This has got to be one of the best movies ever made. The many wonderful and most importantly, memorable songs and lively characters contribute to the exciting and magical nature of the storyline. Anyone who can not see the inherent brilliance of this movie within the constraints placed upon films from this era is clearly missing the point. The delightful characters each add their own individual ideas to a film which has touched the hearts of children and adults alike. Rex Harrison plays a wonderful Doctor, forever entertaining and much more convincing than Eddie Murphy in the tragic American remake. This film is brilliant in its own right, and is definitely one for the books.
If the only "Dr. Dolittle" you've ever known is Eddie Murphy's rendition, you need to see Rex Harrison's original performance! The first "Dolittle" has the remake and its sequel beat by a mile! Sure, it has the look and feel of those campy 1960's movies, like "Mary Poppins" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." But it also has the same comfy and family-friendly appeal. The original movie best captures the image of Hugh Lofting's famous veterinarian, in 19th-century England, just as he should be! So never mind Eddie Murphy, and enjoy the real Dr. Dolittle!
I was taken as a child to see this movie in 1967 and loved it. I ended up buying the soundtrack, coloring books, puzzles, etc. It charmed me that much. Today, I still find it to be a great yet under-rated film. The DVD is nice, but this is a movie that is really meant to be seen on the big screen. That is why I also own a copy on 16mm film. What a difference it makes seeing it in this format. Regardless of how you watch it, this movie is entertaining for kids and adults of all ages. Those who might get bored with it are those who prefer the newer version with Eddie Murphey over this classic from 1967. Which, by the way, got nominated for Best Picture and won the Oscar for Best Song (Talk to the Animals). Rex Harrison's performance is outstanding as the wonderful Doctor Dolittle. I give this timeless film an 8 out of 10.
So attached am I to Rex Harrison's personage to the character of Doctor Dolittle, when I see copies of Hugh Lofting's books without the movie tie-in shots I actually feel cheated. There is no other Doctor Dolittle for me. Harrison is wonderful and regal amongst his animals and I love many of his lines (the spin he gives to his dialogue makes the words his own). My favorite: "When you say 'He can speak crab and pelican', they'll say 'Like hell he can!'" (cue parrot's ruffled reaction). Admittedly, "Doctor Dolittle" gets off to a clunky start with Anthony Newley telling of Dolittle's beginnings...and the film goes into stillborn flashback mode. I get defensive if a movie foists a flashback on me in the first 15 minutes (and this flashback is a long one, laden with silly slapstick). Why not start the story with Dolittle finding his voice, cut the introduction with Newley, and then get on with the plot? After this tiresome, talky opening, the pacing does pick up (right about the time Richard Attenborough enters as circus-owner Blossom). Harrison is on-target throughout but, story-wise, momentum doesn't build until the second hour, when Dolittle and his companions hit the South Seas in search of the Great Pink Sea Snail. Overall, the film simply LOOKS smashing, with marvelous locations in England's most beautiful city, Castle Combe. It is flawed (with that bad opening), but stick with it and see if you find Rex Harrison as charming as I did. **1/2 from ****
If you don't appreciate wonderfully made movies that make people happy, go
find a small island to keep away from the rest of the world.
Once again, movies like this prove 'a well thought out and developed plot and storyline' makes the movie a success at its foundation. The 'allstar cast' is just the beautifying of the cake with icing.
The writers seemed to realize that you can't always or do not have to force the plot lines to make a certain length of movie. They allowed the musical numbers to fill it up. On top of that, they didn't try to constrain the timeframe and edit out important details that allow a movie to flow. This is geared towards the family to make people feel good about anything and everything. Many writers these days are leaving films like this up to cartoon animators as cartoons seem to thought of hollywood as the "Childrens' Medium". This is a film that people of any age can feel good about and laugh together with.
Dr. Dolittle brings imagination to life by speaking to animals in a more realistic way. He's studied them and learned from experience how they communicate. He then takes his intelligence, almost by force, out to the world to find rare and unique animals and help out the world with the help of nature. This tale is often inspiring to many children to take care of animals. For those that have grown may remember some of the tunes and find yourself singing along.
The is truly a masterfully done marvel that any treasured classic video collection should have.
Yes the movie has the world is a wonderful beautiful magical place
feel, yes the premise is pretentious at best, yes, yes, yes, but I love
it. I have bought it many times as a gift. I will continue to do so.
Not only is this movie suitable for all the family even when the minister is in the room, but it is fun. The songs like Talk with the Animals and the song about the Pushme-Pullyou are sure to have your children singing and dancing, while other songs like Beautiful People (not the song by Melanie) will draw in even the most adult audience.
This movies comes from a time when people hoped to be able to look to a future without the problems that plagued our past. To all the cynics out there, if you ever get tired of only looking at the bad side of life I strongly recommend this movie, it is food for the soul.
Having grown up loving the music, storyline and animal interactions in the
origional Doctor Dolittle, it was a jarring shock to watch the
scatological-joke loaded remake.
Doctor Dolittle is a wonderful clean family film, with plenty of adult jokes to keep the parents chuckling and visual slapstick to tickle the young ones' funnybones. The music is top rate with the Oscar winning "Walk With the Animals" leading the way as the good Doctor searches for the Great Pink Sea Snail, encountering a number of wacky adventures along the way.
Doctor Dolittle would make a great companion to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for an evening of old fashioned family entertainment. Suspend you disbelief for a few hours and watch this one with your kids and toss the remake in the garbage disposal.
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