Dr. Dolittle (1998 film)

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Dr. Dolittle
Confused man in a white medical coat, with a white stethoscope hanging from his neck, and a group of small animals
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBetty Thomas
Screenplay by
Based onDoctor Dolittle
by Hugh Lofting
Produced by
CinematographyRussell Boyd
Edited byPeter Teschner
Music byRichard Gibbs
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 26, 1998 (1998-06-26)
Running time
85 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$71.5 million
Box office$294.4 million[3]

Dr. Dolittle (also written 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 main role, Ossie Davis, and Oliver Platt. The film was based on 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 titular character Dr. John Dolittle and his ability to talk 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, The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920) had originally and previously been filmed in 1967 as a musical of the same name, which was a closer (albeit still very loose) adaptation of the book. The 1967 film was a box office bomb, but became a cult classic.

Dr. Dolittle was a box office success,[3] although it received mixed reviews from critics upon release.[4][5] The film's success generated one theatrical sequel, Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), and three films released direct to video: Dr. Dolittle 3 (2006), Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief (2008), and Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (2009).[6]


In 1968, five-year old John Dolittle displays an ability to hear what animals are saying, starting with his own dog. John asks his dog questions like: "Why do dogs sniff each other's butts?" and the dog's response is that it is their own way of shaking hands, and John does it when meeting his new principal. His behavior concerns his father Archer, who hires a local priest to perform an exorcism on John in order to remove the "devil" from him. During the exam, the dog bites and attacks the man, resulting in Archer sending the dog away. Following this ordeal, John eventually stops talking to animals.

Thirty years later in 1998, John becomes a doctor and a surgeon, while living in San Francisco, California. He is happily married to his wife Lisa, and has two daughters, typical teenager Charisse, and nerdy Maya, who has a pet guinea pig named Rodney, and what she believes is a swan egg, which she hopes will bond with her upon hatching. A large medical company owned by Mr. Calloway seeks to buy John's practice, a deal in which one of his colleagues, Dr. Mark Weller, is enthusiastic about, though their other colleague, Dr. Gene Reiss, is skeptical about the deal due to the potential of downsizing patients and staff.

John's family goes on vacation, while John goes back to work to see a patient, and then pick up Rodney. On his way home, he accidentally nearly hits a dog with his SUV, causing the dog to shout at him in anger. Afterwards, as John is driving to the cabin his family is at with Rodney in the car, Rodney starts talking to John, causing him to believe he is having a mental breakdown. John has a CT scan after animals start asking for favors when he helps a wounded owl, and he then unwittingly adopts the dog he ran over, eventually naming him Lucky. John later starts secretly helping various animals, including a suicidal circus tiger named Jake, who suffers great cerebral vein. Through all this, John begins learning to re-appreciate his gift, at one point confiding to both Lucky and Mark that he has never felt excited about his work in years. However, Lisa and Mark catch him performing CPR on a rat, and have him sectioned in a mental hospital.

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 dislikes her. Maya admits to Archer that she liked the idea of her father talking to animals, and John has a change of heart when he eavesdrops on the conversation. He admits to Maya that he does not like, but loves her for who she is, and encourages her to continue being what she wants to be.

John then apologizes to Lucky, and together, they sneak Jake out of the circus and take him to the hospital to perform surgery on him, on the same night a party is going on where Calloway will buy the company. Mark and Gene catch John, but Gene tires of Mark's greedy attitude and chooses to assist John. Soon, Jake is exposed in front of everyone at the party, and they all watch as John and Gene operate on Jake in the operating theater. Archer reveals to Lisa that John's gift is real, encouraging her to venture into the theater and keep Jake calm while John and Gene remove the cause of pain, saving Jake's life. John then declines Calloway's offer to buy the place and officially accepts his gift of talking to animals.

John becomes both a doctor and a veterinarian afterwards, embracing his ability to talk to animals. Maya's egg hatches into a baby alligator, and the final scene shows John and Lucky walking on the street together.


Live-action cast[edit]

Voice cast[edit]




Dr. Dolittle
Soundtrack album by
various artists
ReleasedJune 16, 1998
GenreHip hop, R&B
ProducerTimbaland, Rodney Jerkins, The Legendary Traxster, Various
Dr. Dolittle soundtracks chronology
Dr. Dolittle
Dr. Dolittle 2
Singles from Dr. Dolittle
  1. "Are You That Somebody?"
    Released: June 16, 1998
  2. "Same Ol' G"
    Released: July 28, 1998
  3. "That's Why I Lie"
    Released: September 22, 1998

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.[7]

The soundtrack's only 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.[8]

Information taken from Dr. Dolittle: The Album liner notes:[9]

1."That's Why I Lie" (Ray J)Rodney Jerkins4:51
2."Let's Ride (Remix)" (Montell Jordan featuring Shaunta)
  • Teddy Bishop
  • Dutch (remix)
3."Are You That Somebody?" (Aaliyah)Timbaland4:27
4."Same Ol' G" (Ginuwine)
  • Mosley
  • Garrett
5."Lady Marmalade (Timbaland Remix)" (All Saints)
  • Johnny Douglass
  • Neville Henry
  • Karen Gibbs
  • John Benson
  • Timbaland (remix)
6."Da Funk" (Timbaland)MosleyTimbaland4:29
7."Do Little Things" (Changing Faces featuring Ivan Matias)5:09
8."Your Dress" (Playa)
9."Woof Woof" (69 Boyz)Van Bryant
10."Rock Steady" (Dawn Robinson)Aretha FranklinJake and the Phatman3:05
11."In Your World" (Twista and Speedknot Mobstaz)
The Legendary Traxster4:50
12."Lovin' You So" (Jody Watley)Dwayne Wiggins3:35
13."Dance" (Robin S. featuring Mary Mary)Warryn Campbell3:38
14."Push 'Em Up" (Eddie Kane & DeVille featuring DJ Toomp)
  • Eddie Grier
  • Deodrick Veal
  • Warren Borders
  • Alan Borders
  • Aldrin Davis
DJ Toomp3:46
15."Ain't Nothin' but a Party" (The Sugarhill Gang)
  • Sherwin Charles
  • James Carter
  • Travis Ray Lane
  • Ivan Norwood
  • Life Long Entertainment
  • I-Roc
  • Jammin' James Carter
  • Ivan Norwood

Sample credits[9]

  • "Lovin' You So" contains elements from "Pack'd My Bags", written by Chaka Khan and Tony Maiden.
  • "Dance" contains "If Ever I Fall" by The Winans.
  • "Ain't Nothin' but a Party" contains an interpolation of "8th Wonder", written by Sylvia Robinson, Clifton Chase, Michael Wright, Cheryl Cook, and Guy O'Brien.


Box office[edit]

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.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 42% based on reviews from 52 critics, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Doctor Dolittle finds some mirth in the novelty of wisecracking critters, but this family feature's treacly tone is made queasy by a reliance on scatological gags that undercut the intended warmth."[4] On Metacritic it has weighted average score of 46 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A-" on scale of A to F.[10]

Leonard Klady of Variety called it "Slim on story and rife with scatological jokes, the film may strike a chord with pre-teens but misses for an older crowd despite some nifty effects and broad humor."[11] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times dismissed the film as "A complete waste of time and potential."[12]

Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club wrote: "Murphy is stuck playing second fiddle to the film's menagerie of nutty animals, he makes an engaging straight man. Dr. Dolittle isn't as sharp or consistent as Murphy's The Nutty Professor, but it's an amusing, lightweight diversion."[13] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 and wrote: "Too many adults have a tendency to confuse bad taste with evil influences; it's hard for them to see that the activities in "Doctor Dolittle, while rude and vulgar, are not violent or anti-social. The movie will not harm anyone."[14]

Home media[edit]

Dr. Dolittle was released on Laserdisc and VHS on November 24, 1998, DVD on August 3, 1999 and Blu-ray disc on March 18, 2014.

Other media[edit]

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film was released in Europe for the PlayStation 2 on November 29, 2006.[15]


  1. ^ Petrikin, Chris (February 18, 1998). "Fox renamed that toon". Variety. Retrieved March 31, 2018.
  2. ^ "DR DOLITTLE (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. July 1, 1998. Archived from the original on 2016-04-09.
  3. ^ a b c "Dr. Dolittle (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Dolittle (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  5. ^ a b "Dr. Dolittle Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  6. ^ Dr. Dolittle Million Dollar Mutts at IMDb
  7. ^ Allmusic review
  8. ^ "Nine Things We'll Never Forget About Aaliyah". Billboard. 25 August 2010. Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Dr. Dolittle: The Album (booklet). Atlantic. 1998.
  10. ^ "DOCTOR DOLITTLE (1998) A-". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  11. ^ Klady, Leonard (24 June 1998). "Dr. Dolittle". Variety.
  12. ^ Kenneth Turan (26 June 1998). "'Dolittle' Could've Used a Joke Doctor". Los Angeles Times.
  13. ^ Nathan Rabin (2002). "Dr. Dolittle". The A.V. Club.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 26, 1998). "Doctor Dolittle". Chicago Sun-Times.
  15. ^ "Dr. Dolittle Box Shot for PlayStation 2 - GameFAQs". www.gamefaqs.com. Retrieved 2016-07-13.

External links[edit]