I can't possibly imagine two more opposite people cast to play the same role than Rex Harrison (the original Dr. Dolittle) and Eddie Murphy. It's a huge stretch to imagine how Harrison's prim and proper British etiquette could be replaced by Murphy's one-liner personality and still maintain any semblance to the original character and story.
Well, other than talking to animals, the similarities are few. This new Doc Dolittle is a nineties guy, complete with a troubled childhood resulting from having his pooch taken away because he was talking to it. Now an adult and medical doctor, Dolittle begins barking up the wrong tree again when he hears animal voices. Word spreads throughout both the human and animal world, and soon Dolittle has a herd of four legged patients and all his two legged ones have feathers. This doesn't sit well with his medical partners who are about to close a big business deal that will crash if Dolittle isn't part of the plan.
Remakes of popular family favorites can leave parents wondering what to expect. In short, consider this a whole new movie. With a PG-13 rating (versus G for the original), you can expect far more foul language and people behaving like animals. Language is moderately coarse and the script contains many terms of Deity used as expletives. Violence is limited to a dog that is hit by a car but survives, and a scene where a man is deliberately hit in the face with a door.
Sexual innuendo is the biggest concern, although Dolittle is married and most comments are focused on this relationship. Other remarks involve the animals. For instance, a pigeon's infatuation with a robin's breast, or a vet losing a rectal thermometer inside a dog.
Compared to Murphy's other works, Dr. Dolittle is a mild dose of what the caustic comedian can prescribe, and some moments are truly funny. Even so, many children haven't seen the original, and its tamer tale may be just what the doctor ordered.