Having established in the first film everything we need to know about San Francisco physician Dr. John Dolittle's inexplicable ability to rap with non-human species, Murphy and company are able to run free with a looser storyline about his efforts to save a talking-critter-packed northern California woodland from a nefarious logging company. It seems that if the good doctor can get the area's last female Pacific Northwestern bear to mate, an environmental law protecting endangered species will kick in and save the forest from the buzz saw. The problem is that the only available male Pacific Northwestern is Archie, a showbiz-loving circus bear woefully unprepared for courting an undomesticated female in the wild.
Given his prominence in the story, it's fortunate that the lumbering, sensitive Archie (voiced with zeal by dimwit specialist Steve Zahn from "Out of Sight") is a character lovable enough to hold his own as the irrepressible Murphy's co-lead--something not many human actors have been able to do. "Dolittle 2" isn't a family-film masterpiece on the level of "Babe," but Larry Levin's script, competently directed by Steve Carr ("Next Friday"), is an improvement over the somewhat broader, less-satisfying humor of the first installment (and, to a greater degree, Murphy's low-aiming "Nutty Professor" films). Yes, "Dolittle 2" works in its share of butt and animal excrement jokes, but at least the filmmakers manage to develop a menagerie of funny characters in between. Starring Eddie Murphy, Kristen Wilson, Jeffrey Jones and Kevin Pollak. Directed by Steve Carr. Written by Larry Levin. Produced by John Davis. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated PG for language and crude humor. Running time: 87 min