Dr. Dolittle (also known as Doctor Dolittle) is a 1998 American fantasy comedy film directed by Betty Thomas, written by Larry Levin and Nat Mauldin, and starring Eddie Murphy in the titular role. The film was inspired by the series of children's stories of the same name by Hugh Lofting, but used no material from any of the novels; the main connection is the name and a doctor who can speak to animals, although the pushmi-pullyu, a much-loved feature of the books, notably makes a very brief appearance in a couple of scenes.
The first novel had originally been filmed in 1967 as a musical under the same title, a closer (albeit still very loose) adaptation of the book. The earlier film was a box office bomb, but still remains a cult classic and a two-time Academy Award-winner. Although the 1998 film was rated PG-13 by the MPAA, it was marketed as a family film.
The 1998 film was a box office success, despite mixed reviews from critics. The film's success generated four sequels; Dr. Dolittle 2, Dr. Dolittle 3, Tail to the Chief, and Million Dollar Mutts, the latter three being direct-to-video.
As a boy, John Dolittle as a child displays an ability to talk to and understand animals, starting with his pet dog (voice of Ellen DeGeneres). His behavior disturbs his father Archer (Ossie Davis), who hires a local minister (John Lafayette) to perform an exorcism on his son, but after John's dog attacks him, Archer sends her to the pound. John eventually forgets he can talk to animals.
As an adult, Dr. John Dolittle (Eddie Murphy) is a doctor and surgeon living in San Francisco. He is happily married to his wife Lisa (Kristen Wilson), and has two daughters, typical teenager Charisse (Raven-Symoné), and nerdy Maya (Kyla Pratt), who has a pet guinea pig named Rodney (voice of Chris Rock), and what she thinks is a swan egg, which she hopes will bond with her upon hatching. A large medical company owned by Mr. Calloway (Peter Boyle) seeks to buy John's practice, a deal which his colleagues Mark Weller (Oliver Platt) and Gene Reiss (Richard Schiff) are enthusiastic about.
John's family goes on vacation, but he must return to work to see a patient, and then pick up Rodney. He nearly hits a dog, which gets up and angrily shouts at him in English. The next day, Rodney starts talking to John, who has no memory of his gift, and thinks he is having a mental breakdown. John goes to see Dr. Sam Litvak (Steven Gilborn) for a CAT scan, but nothing is wrong with him, after animals start asking for favors when he helps a wounded owl (voice of Jenna Elfman), and he then unwittingly adopts the dog he ran over, eventually naming him Lucky (voice of Norm Macdonald). John starts secretly helping various animals, including a suicidal circus tiger named Jake (voice of Albert Brooks), who feels great cerebral pain. Through all this, John begins learning to re-appreciate his gift, at one point confiding to Lucky that he has never felt excited about his work in years. However, Lisa and Mark catch him performing CPR on a group of rats (voices of Reni Santoni and John Leguizamo), and have him institutionalized.
Believing his gift is a hindrance, John rejects all abnormality in his life and returns to work, but in doing so, ostracizes Maya as well, who comes to believe he doesn’t like her. Maya admits to Archer that she liked the idea of her father talking to animals. John eavesdrops on the conversation and has a change of heart. John admits to Maya that he does like her for who she is, and encourages her to continue being what she wants to be. John then apologizes to Lucky, and together, they steal Jake from the circus to perform surgery on him. Mark and Gene catch John, but Gene tires of the former’s opportunistic attitude and helps John. When Jake is exposed to the party for the buyout, John calmly goes on with the operation. Archer reveals to Lisa that John's gift is real, encouraging her to venture into the operating theatre and keep Jake calm whilst her husband and Gene remove the cause of Jake’s pain, saving Jake's life.
Calloway is impressed with John's talent, but he declines the deal. John becomes both a doctor and a veterinarian, embracing his ability to talk to animals. In the film's final scenes, Maya's egg hatches, but is revealed to be a baby alligator, and John and Lucky are shown walking to the circus and talking with each other.
- Eddie Murphy as Dr. John Dolittle
- Ossie Davis as Grandpa Archer Dolittle
- Oliver Platt as Dr. Mark Weller
- Peter Boyle as Mr. Calloway
- Kristen Wilson as Lisa Dolittle
- Kyla Pratt as Maya Dolittle
- Raven-Symoné as Charisse Dolittle
- Jeffrey Tambor as Dr. Fish
- Richard Schiff as Dr. Gene "Geno" Reiss
- Steven Gilborn as Dr. Sam Litvack
- Cherie Franklin as Mrs. Parkus
- Mark Adair-Rios as Intern
- Beth Grant as Woman
- Richard Penn as Mr. Galvin
- John Lafayette as Reverend
- Karl T. Wright as Reporter
- Paul Giamatti (uncredited) as Blaine Hammersmith
- Pruitt Taylor Vince (uncredited) as Patient at Hammersmith
- Norm Macdonald as Lucky
- Albert Brooks as Jacob "Jake" the Tiger
- Chris Rock as Rodney
- Reni Santoni as Rat #1
- John Leguizamo as Rat #2
- Julie Kavner as Female Pigeon
- Garry Shandling as Male Pigeon
- Ellen DeGeneres as Prologue Dog
- Brian Doyle-Murray as Old Beagle
- Phil Proctor as Drunk Monkey
- Jenna Elfman as Owl
- Phyllis Katz as Goat
- Douglas Shamburger as Poung Dog
- Jeff Doucette as Possum
- Archie Hahn as Heavy Woman's Dog
- Tom Towles as German Shepherd
- Eddie Frierson as Skunk
- Paul Reubens as Raccoon
- Royce D. Applegate as 'I Love You' Dog
- James F. Dean as Orangutan
- Chad Einbinder as Bettleheim the Cat
- Jonathan Lipnicki as Baby Tiger
- Hamilton Camp as Pig
- Kerrigan Mahan as Penguin
The soundtrack was released on June 16, 1998 through Atlantic Records and consisted of a blend of hip hop and contemporary R&B. The soundtrack was a huge success, peaking at 4 on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and was certified 2× Multi-Platinum on October 20, 1998. Allmusic rated the soundtrack four stars out of five.
The soundtrack's lone charting single, "Are You That Somebody?" by Aaliyah, also found success, making it to 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.
- "That's Why I Lie" – 4:51 (Ray J)
- "Let's Ride" – 4:53 (Montell Jordan and Shaunta)
- "Are You That Somebody?" – 4:27 (Aaliyah)
- "Same Ol' G" – 4:21 (Ginuwine)
- "Lady Marmalade" (Timbaland Remix) – 4:03 (All Saints)
- "Da Funk" – 4:29 (Timbaland)
- "Do Little Things" – 5:09 (Changing Faces and Ivan Matias)
- "Your Dress" – 3:59 (Playa)
- "Woof Woof" – 4:11 (69 Boyz)
- "Rock Steady" – 3:05 (Dawn Robinson and Tisha Campbell-Martin)
- "In Your World" – 4:50 (Twista and Speedknot Mobstaz)
- "Lovin' You So" – 3:35 (Jody Watley)
- "Dance" – 3:38 (Robin S. and Mary Mary)
- "Push 'Em Up" – 3:46 (DJ Toomp, Eddie Kane and Deville)
- "Ain't Nothin' but a Party" – 3:57 (The Sugarhill Gang)
On its opening weekend, Dr. Dolittle earned $29,014,324 across 2,777 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #1 at the box office, the best debut for a Fox film that week. By the end of its run, the film had grossed $144,156,605 in the United States and $150,300,000 internationally, totaling $294,456,605 worldwide.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 44% score based on 51 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. Metacritic reports a 46 out of 100 rating based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".