Review: Doctor Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle

TCM Summary: “A veterinarian who can communicate with animals travels abroad to search for a giant sea snail.”

Next airing: N/A

Released: 12/19/1967

Color: Full

Sound: Yes

Language: English

MPAA Rating: G

Directed by Richard Fleischer
Produced by Arthur P. Jacobs
Screenplay by Leslie Bricusse
Based on Doctor Dolittle 
by Hugh Lofting
Starring Rex Harrison
Samantha Eggar
Anthony Newley
Richard Attenborough
Music by Leslie Bricusse
Lionel Newman,Alexander Courage
Cinematography Robert L. Surtees
Edited by Samuel E. Beetley
Marjorie Fowler
Production
  company
APJAC Productions
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s)
  • December 19, 1967
Running time 152 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17,015,000[1]
Box office $9,000,000[2]

Date watched for review: 7/2/14

First time viewing: Yes

Reason for watching/reviewing: Curiosity killed the cat (no pun intended, I promise)

Recommend to others? Yes

See again?: Yes

Put on my “watch EVERY time it airs list”?: No

     When I say I watched this because “curiosity killed the cat”, what do I mean? Well, there are some movies, and I have no idea why, that I’m sure I’m not going to like for whatever reasons, but I can’t help watching them anyway. Sometimes, (most times, actually) I’m rewarded. Others… I’m killed. I’m happy to say that this time, I was rewarded.

     I should say that I was not raised (or even alive, lol) at the time this version was made. I grew up in the era the 1998 version with Eddie Murphy came out… and no, I’m not going to tell you how old I was, so you can just forget about that. I will tell you that I have yet to see the remake. I wasn’t raised going to the theater, I can count on one hand the movies I saw in a theater before the age of 15 and I’ve only been to a theater a handful of times since I turned 18, and that was quite a while ago. We had a VCR in the house,but I was more of a “I want to watch this til the tape breaks” type kid rather than wanting to try a new movie. I’m a creature of habit. That’s probably why it took me so long to get into the classics. But I digress. 

     Now, I know just because I missed out on seeing the remake when it first came out doesn’t mean I can’t ever see it, my love of classics proves that, but even now, I don’t really want to. See above about preconceived notions. But I figured if I was going to watch something like this, it was probably done right the first time, even though the whole purpose of remaking things is to improve right?

     But anyway, my point (yes, I have one)… I have nothing to compare this to. Is that good or bad? In this case, good.

     Again, I digress. I’ll do that alot. Sorry. It’s how my brain works, and I want you to know, not only what I think, but why. My brain can be a pretty odd place sometimes, so just a heads up. I also will probably write my reviews late at night. I’m a night owl, but my brain still shuts off about midnight. So between that, probably watching a film while I write, and being over caffeinated, these should be interesting…

     Ok, seriously this time. The movie… I was really surprised! I normally don’t go for the whole mythical/fantasy genre, but this was quite good. In spite of the length (more on that later), I actually watched the whole thing and never once thought “I’m only finishing this to prove a point.” or “When will this be over?”.

     Because of this being a British film (in terms of acting, at least) and my experience with such films being extremely limited, I went in not having a connection to any of these actors. This was nice in the area of preconceived notions, but it is always nice to see a movie in which you’re familiar with some of the actors.

     I thought the characters had fairly good on screen rapport, especially  Rex Harrison and Samantha Eggar, or should I say, in that case, anti-rapport. Rex did a very good job of playing a man with poor social skills without coming off looking like an annoying idiot or a jerk. Not all actors do that in similar roles. I also thought Ms. Eggar did a great job of playing a woman who was at times annoyed and irritated with Dr. Dolittle, but couldn’t help falling in love with him anyway. Those two pretty much stole the show (with the animals, of course), and the movie could have easily been focused solely on them. I haven’t decided if that’s a good or bad thing yet.

     If we talk about the acting, the next logical thing would be to talk about the singing. That leads me to another confession… I’m a newly reformed musical hater. I’m not saying they’re my favorite genre, but I’m learning to appreciate the plot behind (and sometimes, in spite of) the music. I’ve often though that musicals had completely ridiculous musical scores. I mean, seriously. Who bursts out into song about doing the dishes, while doing them, no less? Or who bursts into song in the middle of the street with no one giving them weird looks, or even more unbelievable… joining in.

     This movie is a lot different though. Yes, the songs are a bit odd, but they totally fit into the plot and they aren’t made a spectacle of. Samantha Eggar has a beautiful voice and I could listen to her sing any day. Rex Harrison, not so much. On one hand, having talent when you need to sing in a movie is a good thing, especially when great singers have been dubbed in the past (a can of worms I’ll open in other reviews), but on the other, it kind of went with his whole “socially awkward” persona. It didn’t make me cringe or hate the movie, so it’s all good.

     The most brilliant casting choice, I think, was having Geoffrey Holder play the role of Wm. Shakespeare, X. Maybe, and probably, I’m the only one that thought it was funny that a man who didn’t have the appearance of a European background was cast. This stems from another one of my passions, genealogy. As great as Mr. Holder was, i would have loved if they were able to go with their first choice of Sidney Poitier, because… I just love me some Sidney! 🙂

     By the end of the movie, I came to a revelation. (I love when that happens!) I’ve realized that there’s a difference between a kid friendly movie and a family friendly movie. Ask any parent who allows their child to watch TV or movies and they’ll tell you that their small children seem to gravitate toward the programs/movies that are most ridiculous and annoying… especially if they watch them 23,000 times like most kids tend to watch things.

     Even as a child, I didn’t like most of the typical “kids” movies for that very reason, but his movie wasn’t like that at all. It would be engaging to a younger audience, but also wouldn’t leave parents passed out cold or wanting to pull their hair out. Now, I’m not saying this would be an appropriate entertainment choice for a toddler, but for older children that can follow and appreciate a more serious plot, I definitely recommend it.

So lesson learned. If that voice in your head is saying, “Watch this!” Listen.

What do you think about there being a difference between a kid friendly film and a family film?

“After my film is done.” ~*~ Alice ~*~


 

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