With the popularity of talking animal films using the latest visual effects technology, Twentieth Century Fox has released their second direct-to-video film in the "Dr. Dolittle" series with the latest film featuring Maya Dolittle (Kyla Prattts) in "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS". The film is directed by Alex Zamm ("Inspector Gadget 2', "Snow", "My Date with the President's Daughter", etc.) and a screenplay by couple Steven and Daniele Altiere ("Garfield's Pet Force", "Gym Teacher: The Movie" and "Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins").
"Dr. Dolittle" has been a film about a doctor who has the ability to talk and understand animals and has generated a total of six films. Kyla Pratt who was in the original "Dr. Dolittle" films starring Eddie Murphy reprises her role as Maya Doolittle which she began at the age of 8 (1998) and now over ten years later, Maya is now finished with high school and must decide on her plans for college. Having been the main focus of the film series since "Dr. Dolittle 3', this time the film features Maya now as young adult having to make difficult choices in her life.
After finding out that becoming a vet will take seven years of her life, Maya has doubts and not really liking the fact that veterinarian school will take seven years and that she will not be working with real animals throughout those seven years. So, confused and feeling that she will not be experiencing life, she tries to make sense of her emotions. Her mother Lisa (Karen Holness) does what she can to show support for her daughter.
Later in the day, as she walks her dog Lucky, she sees a woman's cat stuck on the tree. With the fireman unable to get it down and needing to call additional help, Maya uses her skill of talking and understanding animals and puts it to good use. The cat refuses to get off the tree because it doesn't like to be given a bath. But agrees to come down if Maya can communicate with the owner to not give the cat anymore baths. While she successfully manages to get the cat down from the tree, everyone including a TV news team who happened to be driving near the area are touched by the young Dolittle who can communicate with animals. The story is featured live on the news and showcases Maya's ability to talk to animals.
The following day, the very rich and spoiled socialite and heiress Tiffany Monaco (Tegan Moss) arrives to the Dolittle home and asks if May can go with her to Los Angeles to talk to her dog and find out what is wrong with Princess, who has been depressed.
Maya's mother is against her going to Los Angeles since she starts school in two weeks but with Maya telling her mother that she wants to at least do some good for someone before she goes to school, her mother gives her the opportunity. So, Maya and her dog Lucky (voiced by Judge Reinhold) travel with Tiffany to Los Angeles.
Maya arrives in LA and starts talking to Princess. This amazes Tiffany that a human can communicate with animals but gives her an idea. Maya finds out the dog is disgruntled because she is actually a "he" and dislikes being treated like a girl and called princess. So, Tiffany decides to give her dog a coming out party with media galore. At this party, Maya meets a friend of Tiffany's, a guy named Brandon Turner (Brandon Jay Mclaren) in which the two enjoy each other's company.
Meanwhile, Tiffany tries to convince her talent agent Rick Beverley (Jason Bryden) for her and Maya to do a show together and Rick is very excited about the news. Especially since he's been trying to get Maya's father on television and have his own show long ago. With Maya leaving to go back home, Rick instructs Tiffany to do what she can to keep her in Los Angeles. So, Tiffany tries to play matchmaker and bring Brandon and Maya closer by setting up a special date for the two on the following day.
Getting the opportunity to keep Maya a little longer in Los Angeles, after her date, Tiffany brings Maya to her agency and immediately, Maya learns that Rick wants to develop a show with her and Tiffany together. Maya is reluctant because she has to go to college but Rick, knows he can use that to keep her in Los Angeles by emphasizing that by having a TV show, she can help more dogs. Maya sees the incredible potential of being on television with Tiffany and agrees (and has to a sign a contract).
Feeling that she could help animals immediately, she decided that she would never need to go to veterinarian school. Immediately, Tiffany and Maya go to work and along the way she lives the Hollywood life with Tiffany by going shopping and talking to other celebrities in hopes they can make an appearance on their show but many of these celebs are hesitant. That is until, Maya talks to their animals and learns of their problems and helps the owner's and the animals out.
Things are going great for Maya and tells her mother that she doesn't want to be a veterinarian and that she would do much better if she stayed in Los Angeles to do her show. This prompts her mother to travel to Los Angeles. Also, Maya signs the contract that she will be doing the show.
But while Hollywood and all the glitz stays in her head, on the first day of shooting her television show with Tiffany, Brandon tells Maya that her dog seems to be quite sick. For the first time, May doesn't know what to do. She can only talk to animals, not diagnose them. Brandon must bring his dog to emergency and it appears Brandon's dog is sicker than she thought and now she feels helpless. Brandon tells her that because she talks to dogs, doesn't mean she can help all of them. Maya learns an important lesson and that perhaps, being a vet and communicating with her dogs is much better than doing a television show.
The problem that Maya must now also face is that she can't just quite the show because now she is under contract and her new agent has no intention of Maya breaking that contract. Will Maya get out of her contract? Will she go back to school? Maya Dolittle, who we watched as a young 8-year-old and now a young adult, must make difficult decisions. What will she do? Leave it to Maya's dog Lucky and a few other animals to come to the rescue.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS" is featured in 1080p Widescreen (1:78:1). The overall quality of the film was OK, when Maya reaches Los Angeles, and you see the various shots overlooking Santa Monica and when she and Tiffany are going shopping and driving throughout Los Angeles, the outdoor shots look quite vibrant. The outdoor shots are quite colorful and overall, the picture quality was good and I didn't recall seeing any dust, scratches or major compression artifacts. There was one scene that looked a bit too reddish but overall, the film is colorful and nice in bright specifically during the otudoor scenes.
As for audio quality, audio is featured in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Audio was clear in dialogue and the music really came through nice and loud. Some scenes utilized sound effects and directing it to the various speakers nicely but overall, "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS" is a front channel heavy film. Although there is an action scene in the end, the film is primarily dialogue and music driven.
The audio is also featured in French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and features subtitles in English SDH, French, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Thai.
"DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS", the Blu-ray edition comes with both the BD and a DVD. The Blu-ray disc features a few fun special features such as:
* Tiffany's Tricked Out Cell Phone - (4:35) This section is actually three special features in one. The first is "Costumes for Dogs" in which Costume Designer, Lorraine Carson discusses the various costumes that the dogs had to wear and get approval from. The second feature is "Fashionable People - Wardrobe" in which both Kyla Pratt and Tegan Moss are interviewed about the clothes they got to wear for the film and interview with Lorraine Carson about their wardrobe. The final featurette spotlights on the storyboards for the film.
* No Business Lie Show Business - (7:56) The main featurette about the making of the film. Behind-the-scenes of how the film was shot. Interviews with the director, cast and crew. Crew discuss working with the animals and the trainer. Also, how the visual effects in making the animals talk and how they were achieved.
* Star Tours: Dolittle Style - (5:08) The crew talk about their experiences for the photo shoot, discussions on production design and more behind-the-scenes shots.
Overall, "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS" is an enjoyable family film. Where Disney has its share of many talking animal films, Twentieth Century Fox has the "Dr. Dolittle" films. Where these films tend to focus more on the character of Maya Dolittle, those expecting the humor and wit of Eddie Murphy are not going to find it on these films.
The film focuses on Maya, who we watched as a young girl now become a teenager who has graduated high school and is now getting ready for college and now having to make young adult choices that will affect her life. Whereas, on most "talking animal" films, the animals are the main focus, the Dolittle films focus on the human characters. In this case, Maya using her skill to help animals owned by celebrities and learning the hard way that talking to animals can only go so far.
If you are expecting something along the lines of a "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" in terms of storyline and production, "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS" pales in comparison. But considering that this latest version of "Dr. Dolittle" is a direct-to-video film, that's like comparing apples to oranges, especially when it comes to film budget. But in a way, for those who can only stand so much of emphasis on talking animals and want more of a young drama, this is where "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS" shines over the others.
As mentioned, the Blu-ray release does come with a DVD, so for those on long commutes and don't want their BD's damaged, you have that as an option. And for family films, I'm glad that Twentieth Century Fox has included the DVD with the Blu-ray.
As for the Blu-ray, picture quality is vibrant in colors especially during the outdoor scenes, some scenes may look a bit more redish at times. Audio quality is clear, understandable and music definitely comes out strong on your speakers.
Overall, "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS" is a fun family film. Not sure if the young children will enjoy it completely since the story focuses more on an older Maya and not on the animals. The talking animal scenes are secondary characters in the storyline but they do come into play much more near the end of the film. The animal scenes can be quite hilarious at times but they are fun to watch and thus, its something that the whole family, teens and young children can enjoy.
If you have been a big fan of the "Dr. Dolittle" films, especially the one's that went direct-to-DVD, you'll definitely enjoy "DR. DOLITTLE: MILLION DOLLAR MUTTS".