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'DOC 2': BEAR-LY FUNNY

Dr. Dolittle 2 ** 1/2 out of 4 stars

Rated PG for doo-doo humor and mild naughty words.

Eddie Murphy returns as the doctor of zany comedy in one of those whacked-out doctor movies. "The Nutty Professor 2?" No, it's "Dr. Dolittle 2" or "DR2" as it's called in posters aimed at kids with short attention spans.

This animal-cavorting doctor is on a mission. Using his celebrity status garnered from his ability to talk to and understand all animals, even guests on "Jerry Springer," he's impelled to thwart the evil plans of an evil logging company headed by the evil principal from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (Jeffrey Jones).

This is a fairly safe plot to run with. Who's going to argue that we should slash and burn every tree in North America? Although I would like to know what I'm suppose to use for bathroom tissue.

Most of the gang returns for the sequel which includes the rats; Maurice, the inebriated monkey; and Norm Macdonald's character, Lucky the dog. Disappointingly missing from the mix is Chris Rock's guinea pig character. Rock must have been too busy basking in the glow of success that was "Down to Earth."

In addition, several new voices are introduced. There's Michael Rapaport as a mobster raccoon, Lisa Kudrow as the love interest (a bear) and Steve Zahn, the object of said love interest (thankfully, also a bear). Rapper Lil Zane takes a brief turn in the movie, but his character exists simply to stick Zane in the movie. Molly Shannon also lends her talents. (That sentence, while not technically an oxymoron, is a suspicious sentence none the less.)

Zahn plays Archie, a very rare Pacific Western bear who also happens to be the last hope for a stretch of northern Californian forest eyeballed by a logging company. If Murphy can get Archie to survive and mate with a female bear in that forest, the logging company will be forced to leave the area. Of course, they'll just go around the corner and chop, but that's not Dolittle's problem.

There's just one hurdle impeding success, all right one humongous hurdle, the size of Peru or Marlon Brando circa "Island of Dr. Moreau." Archie is a performing bear who knows more about the mambo than foraging for food. Besides, he hates dirt, which he's horrified to discover, makes up 90 percent of a forest, not good!

There are many funny scenes in the film. Archie almost drowning because he doesn't know to pull his head out of water when he runs out of air is classic, but these scenes are connected by long stretches of sugarcoated nothing.

A sequel to Dr. Dolittle was obviously not the prevailing thought in the Disney execs' minds; maybe a sequel to the over $130 million domestic gross was. While money is an effective motivator, does it have to be the only one? Can't the desire to craft a meaningful and rewarding story motivate? No.

The Message: If a bear poops violently in a restaurant bathroom and no one's there, does it make a sound? Unfortunately, yes. And smells too.

Janet Bossard is a recent graduate of Olean High School.

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