Dr Dolittle is directed by Betty Thomas, a former actress best known for the part of Lucy Bates, the beat-cop with a frustrated mothering complex on tvs Hill Street Blues (1981-7). Betty Thomas began to branch out into directing with the likes of the highly acclaimed tv movie My Breast (1994) and received a Best Directing Emmy nomination for the tv movie The Late Shift (1996) about the network wars between the David Letterman and Jay Leno talkshows. Thomas then broke into feature films, having notable success with The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), followed by Private Parts (1997) about the on-air hijinks of Howard Stern. Unfortunately, Betty Thomas is not a very good director. The Brady Bunch Movie was only a single-note joke about sarcastically puncturing the original tv series naivete, and Private Parts seemed entirely taken up by a scatological admiration for its subject matters adolescent on-air antics.
Dr Dolittle might have been a funnier film if it had had a better director there are several scenes like where Eddie Murphy is caught giving mouth-to-mouth to a hamster or acting as an animal therapist that would have been hilarious on paper. However, in Betty Thomass hands the film grovels in an extraordinary excess of toilet humour a fat lady getting a hamster stuck in the crack of her butt; a rectal probe becoming lost up a dogs ass; CPR being performed on a rat only to find it is a pent-up fart. The talking animals are voiced with the irritating people-saying-silly-things-in-falsetto-voices that shows like Americas Funniest Home Videos (1990 ) seem to regard as the height of humour. The film stars funny man Eddie Murphy, who in the late 1990s rejuvenated a flagging career by turning to fantasy films, but Dr Dolittle fails to give him any opportunity to open up and do the wild and crazy things he does best. In all, the result is a sad and lamentable vulgarisation of a fine set of childrens stories.
Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), also featuring Eddie Murphy, was a more likable sequel. There was a further three dvd-released sequels Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006), Dr Dolittle: Tail to the Chief (2008) and Dr Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (2009), which featured Kyla Pratt in a return performances as Dolittles daughter who has inherited his abilities. Eddie Murphy does not appear in these last three but Kirsten Wilson turns up in the first.
Eddie Murphy and Betty Thomas later reteamed for the extremely unfunny film version of I Spy (2002), based on the 1960s tv series, and ventured back into talking animal inanity with Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009). Betty Thomass other films have included the less-than-inspired likes of 28 Days (2000) and John Tucker Must Die (2006).
(No. 4 on the SF, Horror & Fantasy Box-Office Top 10 of 1998 list).