Picks and Pans Review: Dr. Dolittle

updated 07/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/06/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson

Betty Thomas is some kind of miracle worker. The ex-Hill Street Blues star turned director can take material that is seemingly trifling, tasteless and just plain dumb and transform it into irresistible fun. She did it first with The Brady Bunch Movie, repeated the trick with Private Parts, her Howard Stern bio, and works her magic again with Dr. Dolittle.

This lightweight, wacky comedy, a nonmusical, updated version of author Hugh Lofting's stories, does for chatty animals what Look Who's Talking did for gabby babies. That's because Dolittle's titular doc (Murphy, in full fizz) discovers he can talk to the animals and they can talk right back. And talk they do, in a blue streak, and I do mean blue. These are foulmouthed, flatulent little creatures (amusingly voiced by Chris Rock, Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres and others), traits which will delight young viewers for whom the word "butt" alone is enough to bring on the giggles. But—spelled with only one "t"—there are enough adult jokes sprinkled in (when Murphy visits a pound, caged canines pay sneaky verbal homage to both The Usual Suspects and Dead Man Walking) to keep older chaperones laughing too. (PG-13)

Bottom Line: Paws up for this family film

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