This is one of the strangest examples of a film that got split down the middle when it comes to how people view it. While there's a good chunk of people out there who see this as a fantastical journey of imagination to watch with the family, others see it as a long, drawn-out bore of a time that might put the kids to sleep rather than entertain them.
It boasts a mere 32% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 57% audience meter, most reviews on it appear negative, and yet it was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning for Best Original Song ('If I could Talk to the Animals') and Best Special Effects, thus adding to the idea that the Oscars probably should never be taken all that seriously. But is the film quite as bad as all that? Well, I'm sad to say that after having this title on my "to-see" list for quite some time now, it is kind of legitimately disappointing. The songs are very uninteresting and often very repetitive ("I've Never Seen Anything Like It" was actually kinda painful for yours truly to get through), and the overall story just keeps getting sidetracked. It does what it can to show off the magic of being able to communicate with these animals, but to a fault.
The general plot of this involves Dolittle (Rex Harrison) and his desire to search for the Giant Pink Sea Snail. However, along the way, things just keep happening to prevent the journey, and they're easily shavable scenes. Perhaps the grand example being that Dolittle gets tossed in jail for being crazy, and gets broken out so quickly and seemingly easily just to continue the journey. The whole court scene goes on for a while, we see his talents at work, but it's completely unnecessarily there.
To be fair, I've definitely seen worse things out there for kids. Honestly, the idea behind this is great. It's a guy who decides to become an animal doctor because humans kinda suck, and he can communicate with them. In fact, I'm willing to bet the books this movie is based on are quite compelling for what they are. But unfortunately, its true that a lot of this movie is just dragged out, and the whole thing gets stale pretty quickly. When you take their end goal into consideration, when it's all said and done, you kinda wonder why you had to sit through so much of it to get to something that, quite honestly, is pretty damn minuscule.
At two and a half hours, one might compare this to other family musicals that run just about as long, like 'Mary Poppins', or 'The Sound of Music' (which is actually closer to three), but the thing is, those movies have a continuous story, memorable songs, and one's attention can actually be held. For the most part, this movie just seemed to be about boasting Dolittle's talents ad nauseam, and not a whole hell of a lot more. There's no real character development here short of being very slight in the characters getting to know each other a bit, but not enough is there to keep one's interest in any of these characters. Dolittle, himself, does have his charm, but that's about it.
All this said, please understand that I'm not "out to get" this movie and bring it down for people. I just simply didn't enjoy it for myself. I get that this is still a family favorite for some, and that's all well and good, I'm not gonna fault anyone for that. We all have out movies of the past we have an attachment to. But unfortunately, for me, I have to side with the negativity on this title.