DR. DOLITTLE starts the same way DIRTY WORK did: with Norm MacDonald narrating a wacky story about the main character when he was a kid. But instead of being the main character himself and talking about a dog getting violated by another dog, MacDonald turns out to be voicing a dog named Lucky who later gets violated Jeffrey Tambor. The main character is a live action human played by the voice of the dragon in MULAN, Eddie Murphy.
John Dolittle is a medical doctor with a gorgeous wife named Lisa (Kristen Wilson, who played Robin Givens in TYSON) and cute daughters Maya (Kyla Pratt, LOVE & BASKETBALL) and Charisse (Raven-Symone of later-Cosby-Show fame) and he’s kind of a self-absorbed dick who’s in such denial about having been able to talk to animals when he was a kid that he refuses to even learn what type of animal his daughter’s guinea pig is. It says right there in the title that he’s a doctor, but they still give him the standard issue Workaholic Dad Neglects His Family storyline. His office is working on a Big Merger that would make him rich, and his partner Dr. Weller (Oliver Platt, EXECUTIVE DECISION, also in BULWORTH that summer) is always hassling him because they have to impress Mr. Calloway (Peter Boyle, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, had been in SPECIES II in April) into signing The Big Contract after The Big Presentation. (read the rest of this shit…)
(NOTE: I’ve decided to go back to cover two Summer Flings that I regret having skipped.)
July 1, 1994
Look, I can’t say for sure what audiences were yearning for in the summer of ’94, but it might have been a cartoon about lions and it might not have been a super hero movie set in the 1930s, based on a character from serialized radio dramas. Here is yet another entry in my beloved genre of old-timey-super-hero-movie-that-totally-failed-at-the-box-office-but-I-thought-it-was-pretty-good. I suppose THE SHADOW seemed like a more sensible bet than some of them, because it was at least a character with vague name recognition and noir influences like BATMAN (in fact some believe the first Batman story was a rip-off of a Shadow story called “Partners of Peril”).
At first glance The Shadow (Alec Baldwin, THE GETAWAY) does seem like kind of a Batman-esque character. He’s a rich handsome guy named Lamont Cranston who lives a secret life, going out at night as a scary figure, fighting criminals. He doesn’t have a cape, but a black cloak that serves the same purpose, plus a hat and a mask over the mouth and two guns. And hidden in an alley is the entrance to his Batcave-like secret base. (read the rest of this shit…)
Jake Van Dorn (George C. Scott) is a single father in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a successful factory owner (“we make rivets for the auto industry”) and devout Calvinist. It’s Christmas time and the family’s all together, Uncle Joe (Paul Marin, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES HOLLYWOOD) being an angry prude about the dancing Santas on the Christmas special the kids are watching.
“I’m sick of watching this television stuff,” he rants after abruptly turning it off. “You know who makes it? All the kids who couldn’t get along here, they go out to California and make television. I didn’t like ’em when they were here and I don’t like them out there.”
When Van Damme got his chance to play twins for the first time of course he took it. But while he was out double impacting the saga of the Sloane brothers had to continue, so they invented a third brother besides Van Damme or the champ older brother whose death in the ring with Tong Po he had had to avenge. They say this new one, David Sloane, is not as strong or fast as his brothers, but has “more heart.” And the movie actually backs that up.
The first half is actually kind of like REDBELT. He’s struggling to keep the family gym/dojo in the black, but still refuses offers to fight professionally. Instead of Ricky Jay you have Peter Boyle as the sleazy sports entertainment business man (but he kind of has a conscience – the guy you really gotta look out for is his partner Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). When they try to recruit Sloan and he refuses he tells his confused student, “He’s gonna take a sport that we both love, that we would die for, and destroy it.” (read the rest of this shit…)
So there I was minding my own business, listening to an interview with Elmore Leonard. Suddenly out of the blue Elmore mentions this book I didn’t know about, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins. He says it was a revelation to him, showed him that you could use profanity in a book and that you didn’t have to tell a straight forward story. And he calls it the best crime novel ever written.
So, through the miracle of opening another window, I ordered a used copy of the book before the interview was even over. Much later it arrived, then I read it, then I loaned it to somebody and his car was stolen with it inside and later they found his car and the car thieves didn’t take the book with them. Their loss, my gain, because Elmore Leonard was right, it’s a hell of a book. Pretty much the first half of the book is all conversations, almost no description. Later some robberies start happening and it turns more into a traditional book. But it doesn’t have your normal type of a story here. It’s more a portrait of these characters and it kind of shows the complexity of a network of criminals, snitches and cops. And it has a great ear for the dialogue. Higgins I guess was a lawyer before he became a writer, maybe he was around some of these guys. (read the rest of this shit…)
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