The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on December 24, 1967 · 202
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 202

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 24, 1967
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MOVIE REVJEW 'Dr. Dolittle' a Muiscal Menagerte BY CHARLES CHAMPLIN Like a new doll, a set of building blocks or a tricycle, 20th Century-Fox's "Doctor Dolittle" is calculated to delight the heart of any child at Christmas. Or in deepest August, for that matter. Animals, after all, are totally irresistible (else the Disneys would quickly have ended up back in Kansas City), and the notion of being able to talk with animals is doubly and just possibly trebly irresistible. Whether' or not they have read (or been read) the late Hugh Lbfting's charming stories about the early Victorian doctor who could speak 498 animal languages, the youngsters are going to love the film v which producer Arthur Jacobs, writer-songster Leslie Bricusse and director . Richard Fleischer have so lavishly spun from Lof ting's work. I suspect it t will be around for a long time. - . The elders, unless they have an absolute and total fixation about the . 'DOCTOR DOLITTLE' A 20th Century-Fox picture. Produced by Arthur ' P. Jacobs. Directed. by Richard Fleischer. Screenplay by Leslie Bricusse from the stories by Hush Lofting. Music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse; scored and conducted by Lionel Newman and Alexander Courage. Dance and musical numbers staged by Herbert Ross. Photographed by Robert Surtees- - Art direction by Jack Martin Smith and Ed Graves. Production de-sign by Mario Chrarl. Set. decoration by Walter M. Scott and Stuart A. Reiss. Edited by Samuel E. Beet-ley and Mariorie Fowler. Featuring Rex Harrison, Samanma Eggar, Anthony Newiey, Richard Atten-borou9h, Peter Bull, Muriel Landers, William Dlx, Geoffrey Holder, Portia Nelson, Norma Varden. ' stories, may on the other hand find the magic a little more resistable, quite a little more. Why this is I'm not entirely sure. What I suspect is that we have a marvelous premise (Rex H a r r i s o n. trying to bubble talk a tankful of . tropical fish is a joy to watch) all dressed 'up but with no place quite interesting enough to go, although it takes a fair while to get there. It's all very well to find the great Pink Sea Snail, but he (or she) somehow turns out to be curiously iilltfceliniactic. I mean, being able to talk to mountain goats you ought to be able to get a hot" clue to the Lost Dutchman mine. And the possibilities of getting: something .... good right from the horse's mouth are immense. j The children's movie can quite easily-; embrace the whole family,-as "Oz" and .' "Mary Poppins?.do. We are all a-thirst for magic and .eager, for the fantastic. But even In 'their own frames of. reference, these tales need to generate ; some suspense, some degree of involve- ment, some; sense of progression, a point. "Doctor Dolittle," though it is mm REX HARRISON WITH A FEW OF HIS ANIMAL FRIENDS IN TITLE ROLE OF "DOCTOR DOLITTLE" beautiful, often funny, often charming, tuneful and gay, is in an odd way never really sentimentally moving,' even in , the sense that it sets, up in us elders a yearning for our lost youth. It is a picture we can greatly enjoy seeing our children enjoy, but without, feeling quite at one with them. - There are, to be sure, many splendid moments, like the whole slapstick sequence on the fateful day -when form. And I must say that the songs and lyrics provided by Leslie Bricusse (and, in Harrison's case, talk-sung as in "My Fair Lady,") do heighten t h e familiarity. They are pleasant and hummable but not strikingly original. Anthony Newiey Bricusse's Avriting partner in "Stop the World" and "Roar of the Crowd") is here on hand as Doctor Dolittle's Irish sidekick, Matthew Mugg. He sings and dances with V j if uyiMimm 1 1 n i ii .n i i.u. 1 voa RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH SAMANTHA' EGGAR ANTHONY NEWLEY everything went 'wrong with his hu-. man patients and' the good doctor decided that animals were more deserving of his attentions, The English countryside and the village of Castle Coombe are beautiful to see. - - - Rex Harrison as the doctor is colorful as he always is. But he made his Prof. Higgins so indelible that it is hard to escape the feeling that you are here' meeting him again, if this time in slightly less irascible and high-handed .! rV an infectious, informal charm but the suspicion is that he could usefully have been given a .lot more to do dramatical-' iy. :', ..:,vi: ;rri- F ,;-. iV 5 Samantha Eggar provides' the feminine interest as the haughty lady won over to the doctor's way of thinking about animals. She looks very lovely, indeed in Ray. Aghayan's designs, but again you feel she has been used too much as an adornment and too little as a really vital part of the plot. Richard Attenborough has an all-too-brief singing and dancing appearance as the owner of a circus to whom Dolittle leases the two-headed pushmi-pullyu. He is a rollicking delight and the whole captivating circus number is one of the best things in the jnovie. , Peter Bull is the resident villain, the huffing-puffing Col. Bellowes,1 and he is suitably choleric. Geoffrey Holder makes a charming appearance as Willie Shakespeare the 10th, tribal chieftain on a floating island. William Dix is the wide-eyed small boy who goes along with the debtor as' proxy for ' us' alt . - But it's the animals which command . most of the attention-ip the dog, Chee-Chee the chimp, Sophie the seal (to whom Harrison sings the love song, When I Look: In Your . Eyes"), and assorted pigs, sheep, cows, whitejnice, fox cubs, dogs, horses, a giraffe. They are quite remarkably civilized and if any animals have anything to say to us (as opposed to each other),; 1'ig Bure these are the ones who do. , . The early scenes in the doctor's English home, its rooms filled from rug to rafter with his furred and feathered, friends, -are marvels of stage management and the kids will find this whole idea ' enchanting. ' But perhaps one of the real problems of looking at the film is that reality has long since caught up - with us' old folks. I kept wondering how you housebreak a chicken'. -'"Doctor Dolittle" opened an exclusive engagement at the Holly woocLPara- mount last Thursday Ilj isby )all;odds.a .major, and welcome addition to : the never-abundant list . of filnis tjif.yoiing sters will love. The' disapin'tmeitf is ' that the magic does not quite take the " rest of us back , to youngsterhocxT as well. a- t :v. - : X ; v- .-iaif: -jc. : TWELVE

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