The straight-to-video release of "Dr. Dolittle 3" is a completely frivolous piece of fluff that doesn't quite make you feel warm and fuzzy, but is sweet enough because of its charismatic lead Kyla Pratt. It occasionally skews older than its predecessors because of its teen focus, which is rather strange combined with the silly, younger-skewing talking animal portions.
Teenager Maya Dolittle (Pratt) is struggling to fit in with the A-list crowd at school, but talking to animals only qualifies her for freak status or ostracism. She alternately abuses or ignores her ability, which always seems to get her in trouble at school or at home. Her mom Lisa (Kristen Wilson) finally has had enough and sends Maya off to the Durango Ranch to spend six weeks learning to fit into her skin.
When she arrives, she hides her true identity from the other kids, especially the hunky Bo (Walker Howard), whose dad Jud (John Amos) owns the ranch. Just when things are looking up, Maya's is called on to use her unique ability to save the ranch from foreclosure.
The film can be rather superficial fashion-wise and it definitely straddles the line when it comes to the tight clothes some of the girls wear. And of course, the characters who are supposed to elicit the most laughs are caricatured losers: the "fat" kid Clayton (Tommy Snyder) who is constantly eating and Tyler (Calum Worthy), the skinny, pale guy who's a meek bumbler.
After an initial scene where Maya ogles Bo, who's shirtless for only one time in the movie, the romantic element is rather clean and sweet. The two characters actually get to know each other and talk, and in the end, share only a couple chaste kisses.
This is obviously told by and made for city slickers who romanticize herding cattle, roping calves and bullriding. As expected, there are the embarrassing moments when Maya, stubbornly refusing to use her gift, accidentally mounts a horse backwards, or when the whole gang goes out to a honkytonk and seamlessly country line dance. And in the worst sort of stereotyping, Maya jumps onto the club's stage and says she's going to sing a song in a new genre she's just made up: hick-hop. Ouch.
Both the commentary and the "Making of Dr. Dolittle" featurette have some amusing behind-the-scenes moments where you can see the on-set camaraderie -- not only among the actors, but also among the actors and animal peformers. Apparently, the rooster named Cogburn is the real director on the project and chickens look a lot bigger and meaner when you're on the ground.
A unique bonus is the "Growing up Dolittle" featurette which is a partial retrospective of Pratt's experiences on all three films in the series, starting when she was nine and had to wear huge glasses. An interview with Kyla throughout the video gets her thoughts on how she matured over the years and her take on working with legends like Ossie Davis and John Amos.
STUDIO: Fox Home Entertainment
RELEASE DATE: April 25
PRICE: $26.98 each
TIME: 93 min.
DVD EXTRAS: Commentary by Rich Thorne and Kyla Pratt, "Growing up Dolittle" featurette, "Making of Dr. Dolittle 3" featurette, TV spot
INTERNET SITE: For more info go to www.foxhome.com