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Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts

Fox // PG // May 19, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 21, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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seven years? Maya Dolittle (Kyla Pratt) doesn't want to fritter away the next seven years thumbing through textbooks or poking away at computer simulations on her way to a veterinary degree: she wants to help animals now. Besides, she's a Dolittle: animals talk to her, and she talks right back. Can't she just ask any sickly puppy or kittie what's wrong? She's still grudgingly planning on slogging her way to college when she starts blip-blip-blipping on the radar of celebutante Tiffany Monaco (Tegan Moss, the best thing about the movie). Tiff wants to put her new bestest friend Maya on TV. Hey, they could help animals and do something kinda educational for the kids at home at the same time! It's just that Tiffany's sleazy agent (Jason Bryden) and the high sheriff at the network (Judge Reinhold) have a different spin they want to put on Animal Talkers, and Maya's so swept up in the Hollywood thing -- not to mention a budding romance with a TV star (Brandon Jay McLaren) -- that she rolls with the punches. Heck, her doggie Lucky (voice of Norm Macdonald) is even egging her on every step of the way. It turns out that Tinseltown isn't everything she's dreamed of, though, and the glitzy shortcut Maya takes to fulfilling her dream of helping animals could come back to bite her in the you-know-what.

At least for
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my money, there's a huge difference between a family movie -- say, The Iron Giant, classic Disney, The Bridge to Terabithia, or anything with Pixar's stamp of approval -- and a kids' movie. Million Dollar Mutts falls squarely in that second group. There are a few jabs at reality TV and the culture of famous-for-being-famous that'll probably zip over a lot of tykes' heads, but with dialogue like "if she wants to bathe anyone, she should start by bathing herself. Talk about old lady smell...oh! Gag me with a furball!" and a belching monkey with a Fraaaunch accent, Million Dollar Mutts is really pandering to the junior set. I just think a movie can be clever, wholesome, and endlessly entertaining without playing down to its audience the way Million Dollar Mutts does.

Take a straightahead moral lesson about hard work and responsibility, add in a gaggle of talking animals, and frame it all around a predictable, paint-by-numbers story, and that's really what you're looking at here. I'll keep it going by rattling off another laundry list: the dreamy love interest who also stands in as the voice of reason, the sleazeball villain type, the well-meaning mother, the quietly sad and lonely girl hiding behind a sparkling pink chiffon facade, a slew of critters lobbing out the comic relief, a madcap climax on a studio backlot that takes a couple of cues from Blazing Saddles and Pee-Wee's Big's all pretty straightforward. There's even a dramatic monologue that's followed by a slow clap!

Million Dollar Mutts really doesn't set its sights all that high, and as completely forgettable as it is, the movie's still cute and inoffensive. I think that's all it's aiming for: simple, straightahead, candy-colored fun with chatty critters in Tinseltown. There are more imaginative, more ambitious, and...just all-around better family movies on Blu-ray than this. It's disposable and forgettable but not exactly bad, though, and if you have a couple of four or five year olds who keep poking at the cover of Million Dollar Mutts at Blockbuster, I'm sure they'll find it worth a rental. I wouldn't shell out twentysomething bucks to buy Million Dollar Mutts, though, and I think it's the sort of movie where I'd mash 'play' for the kids and stroll out of the room. Rent It.

Shot natively on high-def video, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts looks okay on Blu-ray. The cinematography skews towards a bright, candy-colored palette, and aside from some jarring stock footage cutaways, the image is consistently clean and smooth. Million Dollar Mutts is softer than usual, but there's enough crispness and clarity on display here that there's generally not any doubt that this is a shiny new Blu-ray disc. Some stretches do look unusually soft, though -- a romantic getaway at the Hollywood sign, f'r instance -- and I also spotted at least one shot with some missteps in the compression. As Monaco's car first pulls up to her hyperpalatial pad, the red tiles on the roof and another embedded in a wall vibrate pretty spastically. That's the only authoring hiccup that leapt out at me, though. Million Dollar Mutts isn't anything all that exceptional in high-def, no, but it looks alright.

Million Dollar Mutts fills every last scanline with its 1.78:1 image, and the video has been encoded with AVC. Since Million Dollar Mutts clocks in under an hour and a half and doesn't belt out all that much in the way of extras, the movie fits on a single-layer Blu-ray disc with plenty of room to spare.

I've heard of hip-hop, but this is ridiculous!

Like everything outta Fox, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts is packing a 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. It's a 5.1 mix but might as well be stereo, really. Even as the movie breezes into a thumpin' dance club and it zips from one bouncy pop-punk montage to another, the surrounds barely ever creep in. There are a few scattered discrete effects lurking around in the rears as the critters bound around the backlot for the climax, but that's about it, really. I guess there's enough directionality up front to make up for it, though. Million Dollar Mutts' dialogue is rendered cleanly and clearly throughout, and it's packing a restrained but reasonably healthy low-end. Nah, the sound design's not even a little bit ambitious, and it's kind of a drag that the surrounds don't even rate as so much as an afterthought, but Million Dollar Mutts sounds fine for what it is.

Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are served up in French and Spanish. The long list of subtitles includes streams in English (SDH), French, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, and Thai.

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  • Tiffany's Tricked-Out Cellphone (4 min.; SD): This set of mini-featurettes, framed around Tiffany's bedazzled cell, spends most of its time breezing through the wardrobe for people and puppies alike. It ends with a quick barrage of screen-to-storyboard comparisons.

  • There's No Business Like Show Business (8 min.; SD): Million Dollar Mutts' making-of featurette keeps it pretty general zipping through what all goes into getting a movie off the ground -- sprawling crews, shooting out of sequence, and belting out one take after another -- but it also touches on the training of all of the animals in the movie along with the visual effects that bring them...well, even more to life.

  • Star Tours: Dolittle Style (5 min.; SD): This quick featurette shows off a few of the key backdrops for Million Dollar Mutts, including Miss Monaco's mansion, the Animal Talkers set, and the iconic Hollywood sign.

A DVD has also been tucked into the case, so the kids can tear through Million Dollar Mutts in high-def on Blu-ray and still play the movie pretty much anywhere else on the planet.

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The Final Word
There are much, much better family movies floating around on Blu-ray, but even though this is a paint-by-numbers sequel, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts is still cute and harmless. If that's all you and your tykes are really hoping to see -- well, that and a dozen or so chatty critters -- then you might find this Blu-ray disc worth a spin. Rent It.
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