Dr. Dolittle (1998 film)

Dr. Dolittle
Confused man in a white medical coat, with a white stethoscope hanging from his neck, and a group of small animals
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Betty Thomas
Produced by
Written by
Based on
Music by Richard Gibbs
Cinematography Russell Boyd
Edited by Peter Teschner
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date
  • June 26, 1998 (1998-06-26)
Running time
85 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70.5 million
Box office $294.4 million[2]

Dr. Dolittle (also written as Doctor Dolittle) is a 1998 American fantasy comedy film directed by Betty Thomas, written by Larry Levin and Nat Mauldin, and starring Eddie Murphy in the titular role. The film was inspired by the series of children's stories of the same name by Hugh Lofting, but used no material from any of the novels; the main connection is the name and a doctor who can speak to animals, although the pushmi-pullyu, a much-loved feature of the books, notably makes a very brief appearance in a couple of scenes.

The first novel had originally been filmed in 1967 as a musical under the same title, a closer (albeit still very loose) adaptation of the book. The earlier film was a box office bomb, but still remains as a cult classic.

The 1998 film was a box office success,[2] and was received warmly by audiences who praised its humor and thematic profundity. It has become a cult classic in recent years due to Murphy's performance, despite receiving mixed reviews from film critics upon release.[3][4] The film's success generated one theatrical sequel, Dr. Dolittle 2, and three spin-offs: Dr. Dolittle 3, Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief, and Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts, all being direct-to-video.[5]


As a boy, John Dolittle displays an ability to talk to and understand animals, starting with his pet dog. His dog tells him that dogs sniffing each other's butts is how they greet each other, and he does it when meeting his new principal. His behavior greatly disturbs his father Archer, who hires a local minister to perform an exorcism on his son, but after John's dog attacks him, Archer sends her away to the dog pound. Upset by this ordeal, John eventually forgets he can talk to animals.

As an adult, John becomes a doctor and surgeon and is living in San Francisco. He is happily married to his wife Lisa, and has two daughters, typical teenager Charisse, and nerdy Maya, who has a pet guinea pig named Rodney, and what she thinks is a swan egg, which she hopes will bond with her upon hatching. A large medical company owned by Mr. Calloway seeks to buy John's practice, a deal in which one of his colleagues, Dr. Mark Weller, is enthusiastic about. Their other colleague, Dr. Gene Reiss, is skeptical about the deal due to the potential of downsizing patients and staff.

John's family goes on vacation, but he must return to work to see a patient, and then pick up Rodney. He accidentally nearly hits a dog with his car; John bumps his head while the dog gets up and angrily shouts at him in English. The next day, Rodney starts talking to John, who has no memory of his gift, and thinks he is having a mental breakdown. John has a CT scan after animals start asking for favors when he helps a wounded owl, and he then unwittingly adopts the dog he ran over, eventually naming him Lucky. John starts secretly helping various animals, including a suicidal circus tiger named Jake, who feels great cerebral pain. Through all this, John begins learning to re-appreciate his gift, at one point confiding to both Lucky and Mark that he has never felt excited about his work in years. However, Lisa and Mark catch him performing CPR on a rat, and have him sectioned in a mental hospital.

Believing his gift is a hindrance, John rejects all abnormality in his life and returns to work, but in doing so, ostracizes Maya as well, who comes to believe he doesn't like her. Maya admits to Archer that she liked the idea of her father talking to animals. John eavesdrops on the conversation and has a change of heart. John admits to Maya that he does like her for who she is, and encourages her to continue being what she wants to be. John then apologizes to Lucky, and together, they steal Jake from the circus to perform surgery on him. Mark and Gene catch John, but Gene tires of the former's opportunistic attitude and helps John. When Jake is exposed to the party for the buyout, John calmly goes on with the operation. Archer reveals to Lisa that John's gift is real, encouraging her to venture into the operating theatre and keep Jake calm whilst her husband and Gene remove the cause of Jake's pain, saving Jake's life.

Calloway is impressed with John's talent, but he declines the deal. John becomes both a doctor and a veterinarian, embracing his ability to talk to animals. In the film's final scenes, Maya's egg hatches, but is revealed to be a baby alligator, and John and Lucky are shown walking to the circus and talking with each other.


Voice cast




Dr. Dolittle
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
Released June 16, 1998
Recorded 1997–98
Genre Hip hop, R&B
Label Atlantic
Producer Timbaland, Rodney Jerkins, The Legendary Traxster, Various
Dr. Dolittle soundtracks chronology
Dr. Dolittle
Dr. Dolittle 2
Singles from Dr. Dolittle
  1. "Are You That Somebody?"
    Released: June 16, 1998
  2. "Same Ol' G"
    Released: July 28, 1998
  3. "That's Why I Lie"
    Released: September 22, 1998

The soundtrack was released on June 16, 1998 through Atlantic Records and consisted of a blend of hip hop and contemporary R&B. The soundtrack was a huge success, peaking at 4 on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and was certified 2× Multi-Platinum on October 20, 1998. Allmusic rated the soundtrack four stars out of five.[6]

The soundtrack's only charting single, "Are You That Somebody?" by Aaliyah, also found success, making it to 21 on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.[7]

  1. "That's Why I Lie" – 4:51 (Ray J)
  2. "Let's Ride" – 4:53 (Montell Jordan and Shaunta)
  3. "Are You That Somebody?" – 4:27 (Aaliyah)
  4. "Same Ol' G" – 4:21 (Ginuwine)
  5. "Lady Marmalade" (Timbaland Remix) – 4:03 (All Saints)
  6. "Da Funk" – 4:29 (Timbaland)
  7. "Do Little Things" – 5:09 (Changing Faces and Ivan Matias)
  8. "Your Dress" – 3:59 (Playa)
  9. "Woof Woof" – 4:11 (69 Boyz)
  10. "Rock Steady" – 3:05 (Dawn Robinson and Tisha Campbell-Martin)
  11. "In Your World" – 4:50 (Twista and Speedknot Mobstaz)
  12. "Lovin' You So" – 3:35 (Jody Watley)
  13. "Dance" – 3:38 (Robin S. and Mary Mary)
  14. "Push 'Em Up" – 3:46 (DJ Toomp, Eddie Kane and Deville)
  15. "Ain't Nothin' but a Party" – 3:57 (The Sugarhill Gang)


Box office

On its opening weekend, Dr. Dolittle earned $29,014,324 across 2,777 theaters in the United States and Canada, ranking #1 at the box office, the best debut for a Fox film that week. By the end of its run, the film had grossed $144,156,605 in the United States and $150,300,000 internationally, totaling $294,456,605 worldwide.[2]

Critical reception

The film received mixed reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 42% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 52 reviews, with an average rating of 5.2/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Doctor Dolittle finds some mirth in the novelty of wisecracking critters, but this family feature's treacly tone is made queasy by a reliance on scatological gags that undercut the intended warmth."[3] Metacritic reports a weighted average score of 46 out of 100 based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[4]

Home media

Dr. Dolittle was released on Laserdisc and VHS on November 24, 1998, DVD on August 3, 1999 and Blu-ray disc on March 18, 2014.

Other media

Video game

A video game based on the film was released in Europe for the PlayStation 2 on November 29, 2006.[8]


  1. ^ "DR DOLITTLE (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. July 1, 1998. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Dr. Dolittle (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Dr. Dolittle (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved July 30, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Dr. Dolittle Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  5. ^ Dr. Dolittle Million Dollar Mutts on IMDb
  6. ^ Allmusic review
  7. ^ "Nine Things We'll Never Forget About Aaliyah". Retrieved October 7, 2010.
  8. ^ "Dr. Dolittle Box Shot for PlayStation 2 - GameFAQs". www.gamefaqs.com. Retrieved July 13, 2016.

External links