More than a decade ago, Eddie Murphy starred in a remake of Dr. Dolittle, the story of a man blessed with the ability to converse with animals. It grossed nearly $300 million worldwide and, of course, spawned a sequel which raked in over $175 million more. As Murphy's family-friendly comedies go, both films were generally entertaining. After Dr. Dolittle 2 in 2001, the franchise became a direct-to-video enterprise. Kyla Pratt, who played one of the doctor's daughters in the first two films, took over as the star. Her character, Maya Dolittle, having inherited the ability to understand animals, continued talking to animals throughout a trio of kid vid sequels. The latest of these, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts, is now available on Blu-ray.
The plot revolves around Maya's dilemma over whether to go to veterinary school or host a television show about animals. Her mother naturally wants her to go to school, but Maya has second thoughts after realizing how many years of study veterinary school will require. When a teenage heiress, Tiffany (Tegan Moss), calls upon Maya's animal communication skills to help end her troubled pooch's mood swings, it's off to Hollywood. In a cute gag, it turns out the pampered princess wasn't sharp enough to realize her dog was male and she wound up giving the poor thing an identity crisis by dressing him as a female. After resolving that issue, Maya and Tiffany develop a friendship and are offered a joint hosting gig by a producer looking to exploit Maya's gift.
At a brisk 87 minutes, this is a painless experience that will likely keep younger audiences (children 10 and under) entertained. There isn't much to recommend to older audiences, unless you happen to be a Norm MacDonald fanatic. MacDonald reprises his voice role of the dog Lucky, as he has in each of the five Dolittle movies (uncredited in all but the first). As Maya, Kyla Pratt has become a little too grown up for the role. Pratt, now in her early twenties, plays a character who has just graduated from high school. Looking quite womanly in a series of rather low cut dresses, it is questionable how many kids will relate to her anymore.
A movie like this doesn't exactly need to exhibit a quality audio/video presentation, but this Blu-ray release this looks and sounds perfectly acceptable. The sharp picture benefits from bold, bright colors. The Blu-ray version is actually a two-disc set, with the second disc being a standard DVD of the movie. Comparing a few scenes, the Blu-ray has a crisper, more finely detailed picture. Audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD, but the soundscape is limited. The mix isn't overly complex and surround effects are not frequent. The dialogue remains clear and easy to understand throughout.
Neither especially good nor particularly bad, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts should work just fine for kids whiling away a rainy afternoon. It might be time to finally stick a fork in the franchise, but this kid flick is far from unwatchable.