Saturday, June 27, 2020
Nate Hood's Quarantine Qapsule #82 Doctor Dolittle  ★½
But the earth-shattering success of Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music (1965) had Zanuck—and every other major Hollywood studio head—convinced that overlong, over-produced road show musicals were their ticket to print money. So despite everything, Zanuck persevered and ground out a film that bored audiences, exasperated critics, and made only a fraction of its money back.
There are many reasons why Doctor Dolittle fails as a musical, but the major one is its crushing 152-minute length. The film’s episodic narrative structure results in a story that’s not really a story but a succession of tedious cul-de-sacs each more eye-rolling than the next. There are, surprisingly for a musical, too many songs, most of which sound the same and all of which go on for two or three verses too long. And while the spectacle of seeing so many real animals onscreen never quite loses its charm, Zanuck’s expectation that the spectacle itself should be enough to sustain the whole shebang cratered the whole production. The only redeeming moments come from spasms of unintended campiness like a scene where Harrison sings a love ballad to a seal dressed as an old woman.