Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Starring: Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar, Anthony Newley, Sir Richard Attenborough | Director: Richard Fleischer | Producers: Arthur P. Jacobs, Mort Abrahams | Screenwriter: Leslie Bricusse, based on the “Dr. Dolittle” stiroes of Hugh Lofting | Released By: 20th Century Fox
This is a fine example of a children’s-themed film with lavish (for its time) special effects and some fun musical numbers.
Dr. Dolittle (Rex Harrison) is a physician in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, England, in 1845. But he’s uncomfortable in his profession because he relates better to animals than to people. Through a parrot interpreter, he begins to learn several animal “languages” (consisting of sounds and gestures). Besides the many real animals in the film, there’s a “pushme-pullyu”, a two-headed llama (actually two guys in a costume). The fairly light-hearted story also takes Dr. Dolittle to the South Seas in search of the Great Pink Sea Snail.
The plot meanders all over the place; this is escapism, not a message film. There are, however, some “Politically Correct” moments such as the question of vegetarianism.
Rex Harrison doesn’t sing any differently here than in “My Fair Lady”—in other words, he doesn’t really sing at all—but he delivers substance in his numbers. Please note that despite the G rating, some of the musical numbers including the signature tune “Talk to the Animals” contain mild profanity.
There’s no real villain in the story (Peter Bull’s character, the Squire, is the nearest thing to one); and although there are threats of violence, things turn out OK. The film shouldn’t be frightening for children from age 8 or so.