Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Oscar Movie Review: "Doctor Dolittle" (1967)

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Movie"Doctor Dolittle"
Year Nominated: 1968
Director: Richard Fleischer
Rating: G
Running Time: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

Doctor Dolittle (Rex Harrison) is a man capable of speaking to animals. He devises a plan to set out on a scientific expedition to find the giant pink sea snail.

"Doctor Dolittle" is directed by Richard Fleischer, who would go on to direct films like "Tora! Tora! Tora!," "Soylent Green," and "Red Sonja." It is a musical adaptation written by Leslie Bricusse, based on the novel by Hugh Lofting. It stars Rex Harrison as the titular Doctor Dolittle, a man who has taught himself to speak many different animal languages fluently. He and a few of his friends are about to set out on a quest to find the legendary giant pink sea snail.

Since this is a musical, all of the characters are, naturally, forced to sing regardless how good the songs actually are. Though the supporting cast have decent enough voices, particularly Samantha Eggar, Rex Harrison, on the other hand, talks his way through his songs more than anything that resembles actual traditional singing. One of his songs includes the Oscar winning song "If I Could Talk to the Animals," which by some miracle unbeknownst to us beat out "The Bare Necessities" from "The Jungle Book" in this category. In fact, we had that feeling a lot while watching "Doctor Dolittle." "This movie got how many nominations??!" That being said, this Oscar winning song is by far the most memorable from the entire movie, along with "I've Never Seen Anything Like It," performed mostly by Richard Attenborough.

"Doctor Dolittle" is a rather ridiculous film in many ways, but we don't mind ridiculous most of the time. It's somewhat meant to be since it is a family musical. The plot, however, is pretty absurd and is full of contrivances that do just enough to string the movie along to its next mediocre song. Musicals live and die by their ditties, and the vast majority of the tunes are forgettable. There is an occasional laugh here and there, though they often come from unintentional sources, mainly because making fake animals in 1967 wasn't as easy as it is today, so we can't fault it too much for that. It does have some odd character choices, like the Irish character Matthew Mugg, played by Anthony Newley, who makes constant references to the fact that Irish people are drunks. Also in this motley crew of sea snail searchers is a young woman named Emma Fairfax, played by Samantha Eggar, who spends the whole movie, as what would appear, as a romantic interest for Matthew, who is close to her age and even tells him she loves him at one point, only to suddenly switch love interests in order to chase Doctor Dolittle, without reason, who treats her like crap and is 30 years her senior, forgetting about Matthew entirely, who is still there with her the whole time.

"Doctor Dolittle" wound up being nominated for nine, yes nine, Academy Awards, including best picture. It's a little hard to imagine exactly how that happened, even in 1967. Maybe we're just jaded, but this movie is pretty dumb. It's not some exceptional piece of cinema that begs to be seen by everyone, and your life won't be any different if you skip out on this film.

My Rating: 4.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 32%
Do we recommend this movie: No.
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Last Oscar season, we were watching"Jerry Maguire"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching"Rebecca"

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