Doctor Dolittle might be one of the worst movies ever nominated for Best Picture. It was both a box-office bomb and not very well received. It goes to show how little the Academy cares sometimes. As long as a film is lobbied hard enough by its studio. Doctor Dolittle is a character who’s existed since 1920. He’s a children’s book character known for speaking to animals of all sorts. I never read the books, but I was familiar with the character due to the remakes. To watch the 1967 original, I had to adjust to a grander musical adventure. The main problem with Doctor Dolittle is just how long it ends up being. An unbearably slow 2 hours & 32 minutes. Which wouldn’t be as bad if the songs were less frequent and more inspired.
The great talk singer himself Rex Harrison plays Doctor John Dolittle. A vet who doesn’t understand humans and has a large collection of animal friends. Since it’s the 60s, none of the animals talk except for parrot Polynesia. She teaches Dolittle to speak thousands of animal languages. Dolittle’s main goal is finding a Great Pink Sea Snail. Time is filled with Dolittle treating animals, entering a two-headed llama in a circus, going on trial for an animal related misunderstanding, and being declared insane. With such riveting songs about the Irish, being a vegetarian, wishing people were like animals, and the signature song.
Best Visual Effects made sense since fictitious animals were achieved with impressive creature effects, but “Talk to the Animals” didn’t deserve Best Original Song. It’s catchy and upbeat, but Harrison talk sings the whole thing. Plus it won over “The Bare Necessities.” The second half is dedicated to a sea voyage with Dolittle, his Irish friend, a child, his former high class love interest, a chimp, a dog, and the parrot. The giant snail is found on an island of academic natives and Dolittle flies off at the end on a giant moth. Doctor Dolittle is reminiscent of other kid friendly musicals of the time, but I wouldn’t call it a favorite.