Director: Richard Fleischer
Screenwriter: Leslie Bricusse
Adapted from: Doctor Dolittle novels by Hugh Lofting
Cast: Rex Harrison, Anthony Newley, Samantha Eggar, Richard Attenborough, William Dix
Nominations: Picture, Cinematography, Editing, Art Direction, Score (adaptation/treatment), Score (original), Song – “Talk to the Animals,” Sound, Special Effects
Wins: Song – “Talk to the Animals,” Special Effects
I take the mindset that every movie, good or bad, has something in it that makes it worth watching. Even the best of the worst/worst of the best of Ed Wood’s output shines a light on ideals and values of the 1950s—however… peculiar Wood’s perspective on those ideals and values were. Hell, something as barely comprehensible as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003) gives a glimpse into the idiosyncratic thought process of a strange and unknowable man.
It’s unfortunate, then, that a film like Doctor Dolittle has nothing of inherent value in it. This is a movie that is over-bloated and mostly unnecessary. It’s easily 45 minutes too long—maybe an hour had Dolittle not had to repeat whatever the animals tell him to those around him—with songs that sound exactly the same. Watching it, it was so difficult to figure out whether the filmmakers were trying too hard or not trying at all. And just as no one can argue that candy is sweet, there can be no logical debate that Rex Harrison didn’t phone in his performance. The fake fox, Sheila, is more engaging and emotive than he is.
That’s not to say that it shouldn’t have received any Oscar nominations: the costumes are fantastic (and weren’t even nominated) and the animal visual effects aren’t bad considering the limits of technology at the time. Beyond that… honestly, are there any fans of this film? And if there are, I’d love to hear their thoughts about the film. I’ll re-watch the movie if there’s possibly something I’ve missed, but I don’t think I did.