Dr. Dolittle 2 [2001]

It's only a marginal improvement, but Dr. Dolittle 2 defies the odds by rising above its popular 1998 predecessor (and once again, let's not confuse these movies with the earlier Rex Harrison musical). Eddie Murphy cakewalks through his title role with the confident professionalism of a comedian who knows when to share the spotlight--especially when he's being upstaged by a bunch of animals who steal all the punch lines. And once again the movie's aimed at a preteen audience, so many of those punch lines involve flatulence, bodily functions, and frequent use of the word butt. The difference this time: Dr. Dolittle has settled into his talk-to-the-animals routine; his 16-year-old daughter (Raven-Symone) is getting to be a feisty handful (it turns out she's coping with a hereditary gift); and his lawyer wife (Kristen Wilson) is representing him in a trial against corporate villains who want to clear-cut a local forest. Naturally, the local critter mafia (their Don is a beaver... fugeddaboutit!) want Dolittle to fight for their cause, and this involves the successful mating of an endangered bear and a domesticated circus bear who's forgotten all the bear necessities of life in the wild. The bears are voiced by Lisa Kudrow and Steve Zahn, and they almost steal the show, but the whole menagerie (with digitally animated "talking") is equally amusing. Adults might wish that the filmmakers had tried harder to make a truly memorable sequel, but this is a movie for kids, and they're going to love it without quibbling. --Jeff Shannon

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