Dr. Dolittle 2

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Dr. Dolittle 2

As the star of Beverly Hills Cop II, Beverly Hills Cop III, and Another 48 Hours, Eddie Murphy is no stranger to forgettable sequels. Nor is he averse to remakes like 1996's The Nutty Professor and 1998's Dr. Dolittle. But, as Murphy's second sequel to a remake in a year's time, Dr. Dolittle 2 feels more arbitrary than usual. Picking up where its ramshackle but appealing predecessor left off, the film opens with Murphy taking his family on a vacation in the woods, where his ability to talk to animals is called upon to help woodland creatures protect their land from nefarious loggers. This not only involves Murphy playing yenta to a pair of seemingly mismatched grizzly bears, but also places a serious strain on his relationship with teenage daughter Raven-Symone, who wonders, as many children do, why her father spends more time talking to animals than to her. Murphy's Dr. Dolittle wasn't original or well-plotted, but it was far better than it had any right to be, thanks in large part to underrated director Betty Thomas (The Brady Bunch Movie, The Late Shift, 28 Days), whose ability to salvage iffy material is astonishing. Thomas' film didn't boast much of a plot, but her deft handling of the film's anthropomorphic shenanigans, as well as its sober plot elements, made its lack of structure forgivable. Music-video veteran Steve Carr (Next Friday), however, proves far less adept with its sequel. Where Thomas injected pathos into an otherwise featherweight comedy, Carr slathers on the sentiment with a broad brush, particularly during father-daughter bonding sessions that play like a misguided homage to the most saccharine aspects of Full House. Carr's handling of comedy isn't much better, although he's not aided by a paper-thin plot that devotes a full hour to the intricacies of grizzly-bear courtship. At least Nutty Professor 2 let Murphy flex his acting skills, as he played nearly all of a lusty, larger-than-life extended family. Here, he's stuck in a role that even Bob Saget would reject as thankless.