Now that word is out of Dr. Dolittle's ability to talk to animals his business is booming. Distraught pet owners ambush him outside his home and furry critters tap on his window during dinner all wanting some sort of advice. Joey the Raccoon has a special request: he has been sent by the God Beaver to solicit the doctor's help in saving their forest from developers. Dolittle reluctantly agrees to look for endangered species living in the forest so that the law can be invoked to protect it. He discovers Ava a lone Pacific Western Bear living in the soon-to-be-demolished forest and sets out to find her a mate. Enter Archie a performing circus bear. Dolittle convinces Archie that he would be happier living in the wild and to help the bear adjust to the wilderness the doc relocates his own city-dwelling family to the forest much to his teenage daughter Charisse's (Raven-Symoné) dismay. But the match between the two bears is not exactly made in heaven and when the plan backfires the animals organize and plot a worldwide strike.
Murphy seems lately to have traded in his adult-oriented comedy of the past (Beverly Hills Cop 48 Hours) for one that appeals to a younger audience (Dr. Dolittle Shrek). In Dr. Dolittle 2 Murphy is funny and comfortable enough in his role as the doc who can talk to creatures big and small but it is the animals that generate the biggest laughs. Smooth-talking Joey the Raccoon voiced by Michael Rapaport ( Men of Honor) positively steals the show with lines like "Mafia? We don't know anything about no Mafia do we boys?" The flighty voice of Lisa Kudrow who plays the endangered bear Ava is appropriate enough for the part but you can't help but wonder if it's Phoebe Buffay wrapped in a bear pelt. Norm Macdonald narrates the entire film as Lucky the Dog but the lines are surprisingly vacuous and Lucky spends most of his on-screen time peeing on things and making passes at wolves. A grown-up Raven-Simoné (The Cosby Show) returns to her role as Charisse Dolittle and is convincing enough as the brooding rebellious teenager fed up with animals clambering up her balcony and vying for her father's attention.
As with the acting the animals easily steal the show. The filmmakers use different methods to achieve realistic animal interaction including motion-control cameras that filmed the animals separately and later created a composite shot. Digital animation techniques animate some of the animal's mouths and facial features while others like Joey the Raccoon are completely animatronic and required several people to operate them during filming. These special effects must have burnt up most of the budget however because the outdoor sets with their moss-covered Styrofoam rocks look totally fabricated. The animals were amusing to watch and delivered good one-liners but they were mostly about defecating and bestial libido. Sadly not even the animal kingdom is able to transcend social stereotypes like Pepito the Mexican chameleon who gets excited at the mention of tacos or the French beret-clad monkey who is perpetually drunk. The film also portrays the life of a circus bear in a curiously positive light--unless they really do take bubble baths in swank accommodations--that clashes with the whole animal rights theme.
Based on a book by William Steig the deliriously warped Shrek unfolds as a vividly rendered computer-animated romp with a heart as big as its hero. It also lovingly evokes the spirit of traditional fairy tales while spoofing such contemporary cultural cornerstones as The Matrix and Babe. Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) longs for peace and solitude but the likes of Goldilocks and the Three Pigs seek solace in Shrek's swamp after being expelled from a fiefdom run by the diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). Farquaad agrees to remove the fairy-tale characters from Shrek's land should the ogre rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a tower guarded by a dragon. With the trusty but jabbering Donkey (Eddie Murphy) by his side Shrek saves Fiona. He soon falls for her but fearing rejection dares not tell her of his love. Fiona meanwhile harbors a dark secret that could ruin her impending marriage to Farquaad.
Imagine a kinder gentler version of Myers' Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. That's Shrek. Myers' Scottish brogue brings out the charm in an ogre emotionally crippled by a severe lack of self-esteem. Myers restrains himself but that's because Shrek plays the straight monster to Murphy's loud-mouthed Donkey. (Yes expect plenty of ass jokes at Donkey's expense.) Murphy's a riot as he lets loose firing off one zinger after another or bursting into song. A spunky Diaz ensures that her Princess Fiona could teach Charlie's Angels a lesson or two in romance and survival skills. As Farquaad--avoid saying his name too fast when in the company of children--Lithgow is suitably Napoleonic. He also claims some of Shrek's funniest moments including a priceless Dating Game take-off with Farquaad picking out his princess via selections put forth by a stolen Magic Mirror.
Shrek immediately sets aside any notions that this is a grand Disney-ified fairy tale plump with Broadway-style tunes. The first glimpse of Shrek comes when the ogre dashes out of an outhouse having employed a page torn from a book of fairy tales for hygienic purposes. Other bodily functions--executed with childish delight--soon follow. Shrek also tickles a parent's funny bone most notably with its song parodies (pity the bluebird that sings a duet with Fiona). Yet the film's strange and twisted ways do not prevent Shrek from being an enchanting paean to the power of love and friendship. Shrek does harbor a less benevolent agenda one which playfully skewers all things Disney. Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg--who left Disney under bad terms--pokes gentle fun at the company's canon of fairy-tale characters and the sterile environment of its theme parks. Disney execs may not laugh but everyone else will.
"The Matrix," "Being John Malkovich," "The Sixth Sense" and "The Green Mile" -- four films either shunned or relegated to the technical categories at the Academy Awards -- were bestowed with the most prestigious trophies from the sci-fi geek world Tuesday night, named the top flicks at the 26th annual Saturn Awards. In other un-Oscar-like news, Tim Allen was named best actor (for "Galaxy Quest"). Christina Ricci took best actress honors for "Sleepy Hollow."
The festivities here at the tony Park Hyatt hotel were attended by sci-fi and movie icons ranging from Peter Fonda to Martin Landau to Sean Young to Katharine Helmond, and on down the list.
Here's a rundown of the 2000 Saturn Awards winners (note that some of the A list winners, such as Christina Ricci, Michael Clarke Duncan, etc., weren't present to accept their awards in person):
BEST SCIENCE-FICTION FILM: "The Matrix" BEST FANTASY FILM: "Being John Malkovich" BEST HORROR FILM: "The Sixth Sense" BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLER: "The Green Mile" BEST ACTOR: Tim Allen, "Star Quest" BEST ACTRESS: Christina Ricci, "Sleepy Hollow" BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Clarkson, "The Green Mile" BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Michael Clarke Duncan, "The Green Mile" BEST PERFORMANCE BY A YOUNGER ACTOR: Haley Joel Osment, "The Sixth Sense" BEST DIRECTION: Andy and Larry Wachowski, "The Matrix" BEST WRITING: Charles Kaufman, "Being John Malkovich" BEST MUSIC: Danny Elfman, "Sleepy Hollow" BEST COSTUME: "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" BEST MAKEUP: "The Mummy" BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" BEST NETWORK TV SERIES: "Now and Again" (CBS) BEST CABLE/SYNDICATED SERIES: "Stargate: SG1" (MGM TV/Showtime) BEST SINGLE TV SHOW: "Storm of the Century (ABC) BEST TV ACTOR: David Boreanaz, "Angel" (WB) BEST TV ACTRESS: Margaret Colin, "Now and Again" (CBS) BEST TV SUPPORTING ACTOR: David Haysbert, "Now and Again" (CBS) BEST TV SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Justina Vail, "Seven Days" (UPN) THE GEORGE PAL MEMORIAL AWARD: Douglas Z. Wick THE PRESIDENT'S AWARD: Richard Donner THE LIFE CAREER AWARD: Dick Van Dyke THE LIFE CAREER AWARD: George Barris THE SERVICE AWARD: Jeffrey Walker