Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (Blu-ray)
Directed by Alex Zamm
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 86 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Korean, others
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: May 19, 2009
Review Date: May 27, 2009
An innocuous kids’ comedy with talking animals and the simpliest of plots, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts is the fifth film in the updated franchise. There really isn’t anything here for teens or older, but younger members of the family will likely enjoy the variety of animal voices and seeing these poor pets in a variety of ridiculous costumes (biker, tutu, jogging clothes). It’s harmless but only a decent babysitter for the kids.
Dismayed to learn that it will take almost seven long years of concentrated study to become a veterinarian, Maya Dolittle (Kyla Pratt) begins looking for more immediate ways she can help animals in trouble. One way comes calling in the person of media celebrity Tiffany Monaco (Tegan Moss). Since Maya can talk to animals and understand their speech, Tiffany thinks that will open doors to celebrities who are having pet problems. Then, she and Maya can form a team and hopefully begin a network TV show where they will feature celebrity pets and host other animal features. At first Maya believes the show will be a short cut to allowing her to help needy animals, but she quickly learns that her contract with smarmy agent Rick Beverley (Jason Bryden) doesn’t allow her to decide content of the show, and she becomes quickly disillusioned. Some help from friends both human and non will be needed to extricate her from a sticky contractual situation.
If you’ve seen one talking animal movie (and I’ve seen three or four in the last few months), you’ve seen them all. This brand of special effects has long since stopped holding any fascination for adult viewers on its own; only if what comes out of the mouths of these creatures is something fresh and funny does the film have something to offer the average adult viewer. For this movie, there isn’t really anything vaguely original on display. The situations are pretty pat, and the lesson Maya’s going to learn about there being no shortcuts to achieve worthwhile goals is only there for the young viewers to watch and think about. The animals do go through their paces smoothly, all achieved undoubtedly with tons of patience and repetition, and the human actors seem completely comfortable interacting with them. Steven and Daniel Altiere have not written any monumentally funny or pithy dialogue for anyone: human, canine, feline, reptile, or mammal. Kids likely won’t mind a bit.
Kyla Pratt has grown up with these films and continues with her ingratiating persona which will likely appeal to younger viewers who may have been growing up with her in these films. She’s given a puppy love-boy friend in this one, Brandon Turner played by Brandon Jay McLaren, a former moppet from a years-ago sitcom. Tegan Moss plays a Paris Hilton-style celebrity whose fame doesn’t guarantee any real friends. Better writing might have delved more deeply into this sad truth and yet still kept it basic enough for the small fry to understand and think about. Jason Bryden comes the closest to a hissible villain in the picture as the manipulative agent, but the one-dimensional role really doesn’t offer the actor much of a challenge. Karen Holness makes an understanding, supportive mom for Maya.
The film is framed at 1.78:1 and is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. It’s a bright, sharp picture for the most part with pleasingly saturated colors and very accurate flesh tones. One or two moments drift soft for a moment, and there may have been a couple of edge halos, but that’s the extent of the negatives about this transfer. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix stays mostly confined to the front channels for much of the film’s running time. Occasionally some music finds its way to the surrounds, and a climactic chase through a production studio’s soundstages and backlot gives the film its only good opportunities to exploit its surround channels. They’re used well for those few moments, but the LFE channel is pretty much wasted in this mix.
All of the bonus features are presented in 480p.
“Tiffany’s Tricked-Out Cell Phone” is a collection of three featurettes about various aspects of making the picture. The costume designer speaks about creating various costumes for the menagerie of animals in the cast in one featurette, and in the second, she talks about creating clothes and make-up for the two female stars of the picture. A third featurette is a brief storyboard to live action comparison montage using split screen. Played together, these three features run only a total of 4 ½ minutes.
“No Business Like Show Business” is the film’s EPK making-of documentary featuring brief interviews with the director, the production designer, several of the actors, and the special effects supervisor discussing quickly the process for making the animals talk. There’s a bit of behind-the-scenes footage showing the animals being posed and put through their paces and also working with the actors in their scenes. This lasts 8 minutes.
“Star Tour: Dolittle Style” is a brief tour of four of the studio sets using during production. It lasts 5 minutes.
A 1080p trailer for Marley & Me is the only trailer extra.
A second disc contains the DVD copy of the movie in anamorphic widescreen.
Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts fits comfortably with the other recent made-for-home video sequels of the Doctor Dolittle franchise update. It looks very nice on Blu-ray and contains a DVD version for use in non-Blu-ray players, a win-win situation for families looking for a safe, friendly time passer for their children.