Blu-ray Review: Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts (2009)

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Although the superior version of the same concept can be found via Walt Disney's unfairly maligned Beverly Hills Chihuahua-- which was viewed mostly through the tiny-but-mighty eyes of its feisty canine heroine (voiced by Drew Barrymore)--there's still an awful lot of enjoyment to be discovered in the fifth entry and third direct-to-disc installment of the Dr. Dolittle franchise.

While it doesn't boast the same polish or cast roster of Chihuahua (although honestly, not every movie can include one of the Three Tenors in a supporting role!), it does manage to surpass not just the Buddies franchise of the House of Mouse but also marks the very first entry in the Dolittle series I've been able to stand without pressing stop countless times to go do something else.

This being said, it does contain some trademark rude humor. However, while the debut film in Eddie Murphy's titular take on the series--one of his many family themed box office successes that have propelled unfortunately propelled his career into the state it's in today rather than inspire "quality" work--relied far too heavily on toilet jokes, this one genuinely feels as though it could qualify for a G.

Predictable from the start yet so bright and energetic that at times it appeared as though it could be the movie version of a could be a candy commercial, Million Dollar Mutts offers spirited jokes about a monkey crafting masterpieces on his Etch-a-Sketch and a rapper's bunny who prefers classical music.

The movie reunites us with Kyla Pratt as Maya Dolittle--the teenage daughter of Murphy's character who has inherited her father's ability to talk to animals. And in what will most likely be Maya's last adventure since it finds her embarking on a collegiate career after which her character jokes, she'll be like twenty-five or "OLD," the seventeen year old girl becomes dismayed when she realizes that her course of study in veterinary medicine at San Francisco University is short on hands-on work with animals and heavy on advanced math and science coursework in its roughly seven year time-span.

Understandably frustrated about the length of academic study coupled with the typical sense of teenage wish for instant gratification, desire to skip all the hard stuff and moreover, just not getting why she "should have to do what everybody else does" since she's a Dolittle, Maya begins having second thoughts. While passing on college is the last thing her mother would let her get away with, it only delights her loyal dog Lucky (Norm MacDonald) who selfishly was trying everything in his power to keep her from leaving.

Luckily for Lucky, fate in the form of a TV crew intervenes and after footage of Maya coaxing a cat out of a tree captures the attention of Tegan Moss' ditzy Paris Hilton inspired heiress Tiffany Monaco. Worried about her depressed "Princess" who she's shocked to discover is really a "Prince," Tiffany flies in from L.A. and recruits Maya to costar in a brand new talk show where she promises Maya can help cure Hollywood pets of what ails them on a weekly basis.

Dangling the irresistible carrots of Rodeo Drive shopping sprees, mansions that look like movie studios, face-time with celebrities she admires, as well as sensing a spark between Maya and Branon Jay McLaren's cute TV star Brandon-- Tiffany's lifestyle seems too enticing to resist so Maya trades tuition for television.

And while of course, we foreshadow that soon Maya will start to realize there's more to helping animals than simply talking to them and that compromising her gift for superficial television fame isn't exactly what the original Dr. Dolittle would've ordered.

Yet despite the obvious fact that after five features in eleven years, Kyla Pratt is quickly outgrowing this series and her scenes are starting to feel understandably forced as she ages and ironically in this one, she has more chemistry with the pets than the people in true Dolittle fashion), the film is still a fun time-waster.

Additionally, when delivered in the highest quality of Fox Blu-ray with sparkling picture and sound (they have yet to disapoint as a studio even with direct-to-disc titles), Pratt's Maya and director Alex Zamm's Million Dollar Mutts would've made Dr. Dolittle himself proud. Well, okay if not the author Hugh Lofting who penned the children's series nor Rex Harrison who starred inthe bland '60s musical take on the material than definitely it'd cause her franchise dad, Eddie Murphy (with whom she starred in the first two before venturing out on her own) beam with pride.

Nicely budget conscious, the first-rate performance of the Blu-ray would've been enough on its own but perhaps taking a cue from the studio's awesome Marley & Me package (which offered a DVD and a digital file download), Dr. Dolittle's Blu-ray can be purchased by those who've yet to upgrade to the format as it comes with a bonus DVD which contains all of the same special features that the Blu-ray offers.

Doing a side-by-side comparison of the DVD on both an upconvert player and standard DVD player, there's a marked difference in the picture quality (much more so than the sound) when you move from the Blu-ray to the DVD so owners of the Blu-ray will have fun bringing it along to places equipped with the player to check out the immediate changes from the full 1080HD quality. Yet keeping in mind the fact that its target audience and reason for being is simply to amuse kids and teens, the DVD more than delivers as the Mutt version to the Million Dollar picture of the Blu.