Eddie Murphy cements his transition from foul-mouthed stand-up to family entertainer with this dull sequel, which finds the star playing second fiddle to a zoo's worth of wacky talking creatures. Those with fond memories of Axel Foley will be saddened at the avuncular softie he's become... That said, you have to hand it to him for clawing his way back from a career slump that made John Travolta's look like a summer holiday.
Since the original Doctor Dolittle almost bankrupted Fox in 1967, there's a twisted irony in its update becoming one of the studio's most lucrative franchises. But having established the effects-packed formula in the first movie, DD2 offers little else beyond coming up with ever more diverse species for the Doc to chatter with. As before, the film boasts an impressive roster of voice talent, and adults can pass the time guessing who's who. As with Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, though, bigger is not necessarily better.
You can only admire the technical wizardry that has Murphy interacting with wine-swigging monkeys, slippery weasels and a Mafiosi-style "God Beaver". But the limitations of the gimmick quickly become apparent with the introduction of Archie, voiced by Steve Zahn. No amount of trickery can elicit a decent performance from a bear, and there's a distasteful feel to the way the 800-pound "Tank" lumbers through his repertoire for our amusement.
Given the amount of animal activity, it's hardly surprising the human players leave such a minimal impression. Jeffrey Jones and Kevin Pollak make serviceable villains, but they're certainly more accomplished than rap star Lil' Zane, who as Dolittle's daughter's boyfriend gets to call Murphy "Pops" and spend much of the picture wearing his baseball cap backwards. On second thoughts, bring back the bear.