Film / Dr. Dolittle

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Dr. Dolittle is a 1998 comedy film starring Eddie Murphy as a doctor who has the ability to talk to animals. It is inspired by the Doctor Dolittle books by Hugh Lofting, but doesn't much resemble them.

A sequel, Dr. Dolittle 2, was released in 2001. There are also three more direct-to-video sequels in which the central character is Dr. Dolittle's daughter Maya, played by Kyla Pratt.

(For the 1967 film starring Rex Harrison, see Doctor Dolittle.)


This film series provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Dr. Dolittle tricks his wife, Lisa, into thinking he's bought her a fancy new sports car in order to make a point about her supposedly not caring about money. After admitting that, "no, actually, the van's around the corner," he does a breathless, girlish imitation of her excited "Oh, John, you didn't, you didn't!" Lisa tells him "That's not funny," but her facial expression and barely restrained laughter clearly indicate that she knows he got her good, even if she doesn't want to admit it out loud.
  • All Animals Are Domesticated: Wild animals are casually comfortable around Dolittle.
  • An Aesop: "It's okay to be weird", for the first film.
  • Animal Gender-Bender: A pigeon with a female voice has the familiar feather coloration — which is a trait of male pigeons.
  • Animal Stereotypes: The animals' personalities are this, unless something else is required for the plot.
  • Animal Talk: At least they talk to Dolittle.
  • Ass Shove: Lucky's anus swallows a thermometer during a veterinarian's examination. It has to be "retrieved manually".
  • Babies Ever After: In Dr. Dolittle 2 Dolittle intends for this to happen with Archie and Ava so as to try and save the forest and the endangered Pacific Western bear species. Eventually it works and in the final scene, Archie and Ava have two cubs.
  • Bee Afraid: In Dr. Dolittle 2, this happens to Archie when he's trying to get the beehive for Ava. The bees then briefly go over to Dolittle, and after that, they attack Riley. Twice, it happens again later too.
  • Berserk Button: In Dr. Dolittle 2, Archie has two, and both are pushed by Dolittle in the same scene. He doesn't like being called a coward (even when he's acting like one), and he doesn't like being poked. When Dolittle angrily keeps poking him, Archie snaps and pushes him off a small cliff.
  • Big "WHAT?!": In Dr. Dolittle 2, the man on the phone early on does an indignant one after John calls him a punk.
  • Bowdlerize Depending on the network airing the movie, the line "Throw the damn ball!" might have its expletive removed, and Dolittle's question about dogs sniffing each other may also be trimmed.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: The guinea pig:
    "You scared the crap out of me! See? There it is."
    • Though it's possible Rodney could have just been taking advantage of the opportunity to make a pun. Anyone who has ever owned a guinea pig will tell you that these creatures poop a lot.
  • Captivity Harmonica: In Dr. Dolittle 2, Archie plays one during one of the scenes he is in jail.
  • Cats Are Mean: Discussed.
  • Cat Up a Tree: In Dr Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts, Maya Dolittle rescues an old lady's cat, but the cat refuses to leave the tree until the old lady stops giving him baths.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Dogs. The last animal Dolittle spoke to as a boy was his pet dog. The first animal that speaks to him as an adult is a dog that eventually becomes his pet dog.
    • In Dr. Dolittle 2, the beehive on the log up on the cliff. Ava tells Archie that bears have died trying to reach it. Archie decides then and there to win Ava over by trying to get the hive. He does it a few scene later, to the shock of Ava and Dolittle, almost falling off when the log starts to come loose under his weight and getting stung by bees, but it works.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Rodney the guinea pig does not appear and is never mentioned again after the first movie.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Calloway in the first film and Potter in the second.
  • Dead Man Walking: As a dog is being led away to be put down at the pound that Lucky's taken to, one of the dogs comments "dead dog walking."
  • The Door Slams You: At the Calnet meeting, Mark mocks Gene behind his back, and Gene opens a door into Mark's face, breaking his nose.
  • Egg McGuffin
  • Even the Dog Is Ashamed: Dolittle's dog does not tolerate Dolittle's son's failure at hot-or-cold.
  • Foreshadowing: In Dr. Dolittle 2, a couple of hints are dropped that Charisse has inherited Dolittle's ability to talk to animals before its reveal late in the film, such as the scene where Charisse tells him he's the one who talks to the animals, not her, and goes off on a bit of rant about it, and later when she tells Maya that if Papito could understand her, she'd tell him "how sick [she] is of all these stupid animals, and Papito replies "Ooh, that really hurt."
  • Friend to All Living Things: Dr. Dolittle becoming this is part of the plot.
  • Get Out: In Dr. Dolittle 2, after Archie gets the hive for Ava and wins her over from Sonny, Ava, sick of Sonny's disrespect towards her and Archie, tells him to take a hike, and he never appears again after that.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The orangutan in the first film, of whom Dr. Dolittle needs to prove that it can speak. It does end up speaking... Spanish.
  • Heartbreak and Ice Cream: After Ava goes off with Sonny despite clearly liking Archie more, citing that she needs more than just a "city bear", Archie breaks into a store and raids the freezer for ice cream, realizing while eating Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia that he's in love with Ava.
  • Hollywood Chameleon: Subverted in Dr. Dolittle 2, with Papito the chameleon, who thinks he has the ability to blend completely into the background, but never can. At the end, Charisse paints a room completely green as a surprise for Papito, and it looks like he finally got his dream.
  • I Am Not Weasel
    Dr. Dolittle: I think we should get rid of Maya's little rat thing.
    Mrs. Dolittle: He's a guinea pig. I don't know why you let him get to you.
  • Insult Misfire: In the first movie:
    Pigeon, helping to defend Dolittle's operation against the police: Pigs go home. Pigs go home.
    A Pig, walking away in confusion: Huh?
    Pigeon: No, not you... the police.
  • Ironic Echo: In Dr. Dolittle 2 Dolittle tries to get an endangered bear to mate in order to save a forest. The Corrupt Corporate Executive tells him that won't happen so he makes an offer noting this way he can save face, won't have to admit he was wrong, and won't look like a fool. When Dolittle gets the animals to unite against him, he proposes they set up a meeting as it's the only way to save face, he won't have to admit he was wrong, and he'll get out of the situation without looking like an idiot.
  • Is That a Threat?: Dr. Dolittle 2:
    Dr. Dolittle: You're an endangered species!
    Archie: Is that a threat, buddy?
  • Jerkass: Mark Weller and Blaine Hammersmith in the first film. Mark Weller is very greedy and is sometimes rude to Dolittle, while Blaine is Dolittle's old rival from their medical school days.
    • In Dr. Dolittle 2, Sonny. He's disrespectful towards Ava and contemptuous of Archie, calling him "circus boy" and even hoping at one point while Archie is trying to get the beehive for Ava that Archie falls to his death. When Archie succeeds in getting the hive, Sonny angrily orders Ava to come with him, but Ava tells him to take a hike.
    • Also in Dr. Dolittle 2, Potter and Riley, the Corrupt Corporate Executive and The Dragon who want to level the forest.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Dr. Dolittle. He at first hates animals after he stops talking to them as a child and at times doesn't take Charisse and Maya seriously, but especially Maya, who wants him to like her as a person. In the second film, this continues when he becomes a bit of an Overprotective Dad to Charisse and snaps at Archie out of frustration at his refusal to cooperate. He still loves his family, though, warms up to animals after a while when he embraces the fact that he can talk to them, convinces the tiger not to commit suicide, is willing to save a rat from what he thinks is death (it's just gas), tries to save an entire forest from being levelled by a logging company, and the reason he snaps at Archie is not only because he won't cooperate, but because Lisa and Charisse are mad at him, he's being pestered by Charisse's annoying boyfriend, Eric, and because if Archie doesn't cooperate, the entire population of the forest won't have anywhere to live, and when it looks like the animals seem to have giving up trying to save the forest, he rallies them to carry on.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: In Dr. Dolittle 2, when Archie is trying to get the beehive, the bees escape from it and try and attack Riley, who, up until this point, has been gleefully watching the scene through his binoculars and hoping out loud that the log breaks under Archie's weight. Riley sees the bees coming towards him, panics and runs for it. It also forms a Brick Joke when Potter locks him out of the building when the animals close in, and the bees reappear.
  • Love Epiphany: Archie realises he's in love with Ava while eating Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.
  • Man Hug: Dolittle and Archie have one at the end of Dr. Dolittle 2. Dolittle manages to choke out that Archie is crushing his spine.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Dolittle is introduced as a boy talking to his pet dog.
  • Motor Mouth: Rodney the guinea pig.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Archer realized his mistake thinking his son's Animal Talk is a disability, since he was afraid it would ruin his life. Now he sees it as a gift.
  • Name One: When the good doctor tries to convince a suicidal tiger that there are plenty of tigers in pop culture.
    Tiger: Okay, name one.
    Dolittle: ...
    Lucky: How 'bout Tony?
    Dolittle: Tony the cereal tiger?
    Lucky: What? I didn't hear you come up with anything.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted.
    • In the first film, the pigeons defecate on Mark Weller and Calloway at the end, much to their disgust.
    • In Dr. Dolittle 2, not only does Archie have to use the bathroom, he's trapped in there with John, who can't keep guard outside and who has to breathe through a barely open window while Archie takes a massive dump in the toilet next to him. It's so bad that by the time he gets out of there, Potter and Riley recoil from the stink. He even wakes up a dog he passes on his way out thanks to it.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Rodney the guinea pig ponders how he came to that name, since he's not a pig, and neither from Africa nor an Italian "guinea".
  • Not This One, That One: There's this exchange between John and Lisa:
    Dr. Dolittle: Lisa, the more money you have, the more time you can spend with your family. That's the way it boils down. that's true. And in the meantime, you're just gonna have to make do and be happy with this beautiful, fancy sports car you always wanted. Right here, beautiful.
    Lisa Dolittle: Oh, my God, John, you didn't!
    Dr. Dolittle: No, I didn't. The van's around the corner. But I saw how fluttered you got, so don't tell me you don't care about money. (starts mocking) "Oh, John, you didn't. You didn't."
  • Overprotective Dad: In Dr. Dolittle 2, Dolittle becomes a bit of one to Charisse when he finds out she has a boyfriend, namely a pizza boy called Eric.
  • Potty Emergency: Played with. In Dr. Dolittle 2, Archie suddenly gets one of these in a bathroom cubicle after an episode of Heartbreak and Ice Cream. A blessing for him, because he's able to use the toilet immediately, but definitely an emergency for John, who's in the cubicle with Archie to prevent anyone from seeing him, and he can't keep anyone from coming in because someone might see him and because Riley is outside. He has to breathe through a small gap in the window next to the toilet as Archie uses it.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: The pound that Lucky's taken to, complete with Death Row tropes when a dog is taken to be put down.
  • Reality Ensues: After Gene punches Mark in the face and knocks him out, Gene holds his hand in pain from the impact.
  • Replacement Goldfish: It's implied that Papito, the Mexican chameleon Maya gets from Dolittle is one for Rodney. Both talk an awful lot and are very similar characters in that they provide comic relief and sometimes pop up at inopportune moments.
  • Scenery Porn: Dr. Dolittle 2 starts this way with shots of San Francisco, including one looking up at the Golden Gate Bridge as if travelling along it, and another of part of the city skyline during sunset as the title appears. Some shots of the forest, including the final shot, also look like this.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Subverted. In Dr. Dolittle 2, Charisse almost pulls one of these when Dolittle tells her, Lisa and Maya that Archie thinks he can win Ava, but they are stuck in the forest for longer as a result. Out of frustration, she starts walking off and Dolittle goes after her. She doesn't get far, and in the ensuing conversation, reveals she just wants to go home.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When the doctor and Lucky the dog are trying to stop a tiger from leaping to his death, they note all of the great tigers. When asked to name one Lucky comes up with Tony the Tiger, while Dolittle points out how Rocky beat up Mr. T after hearing "Eye of the Tiger".
    • "Yeah, baby!"
    • "Hasta la vista, baby!"
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Dr. Dolittle.
    • In Dr. Dolittle 2, Charisse too. She kept quiet about it because she thought it would make her look like a freak. And Maya in the following sequels.
  • Stylistic Suck: Archie's first time singing Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" is so bad that not only do the animals watching leave mid-performance, even he acknowledges how bad it is.
  • Toilet Paper Trail: Lucky the dog leaves the bathroom in this manner.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ms. Parkis, the woman who is deathly allergic to shellfish and yet won't stop eating it. She even thinks that it doesn't count as shellfish if she removes the fish from its shell before eating it. After the third time this has happened, note  Dr. Dolittle asks her if she has a death wish.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The two rats are explicitly not grateful to the good doctor after he saves one of them.
    Rat: You want gratitude? Get a hamster!
  • Wham Line:
    • "Why don't you watch where you're going next time, you bonehead!" from the first film. This is the first time Dolittle has understood something an animal has said since his childhood.
    • In Dr. Dolittle 2, "Everybody is meant to be loved." The reason for it? Archie just said something similar and the Wham Line was spoken by Charisse. Dolittle then suddenly realizes she has inherited his ability to talk to animals because she understood what Archie said.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens to Archie in the second film. Archie wins over Ava, Ava tells Sonny to beat it, but while Archie is trying to count to one hundred so he can chase after Ava, he is shot by a tranquilizer dart.
  • You Can Talk?: Dolittle and Rodney's reaction when they discover that the each of them can understand what the other is saying.
  • You Need a Breath Mint:
    Lucky barks next to Rodney.
    Rodney: You know, a Tic-Tac wouldn't kill ya.

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