Read: The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts, by Hugh Lofting
Movie-to-book skill: Negative
Most movies are a mere shadow of the book they are based on. A Little Princess, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings stand out as just altered enough to be disappointing to a fan, but still working more or less as films (for some of Harry Potter, it was much less). It is difficult to pick one book that was completely desecrated by the movie version, but Doctor Dolittle, featuring Eddie Murphy, is an absolute disgrace to film versions of classic books.
The original Doctor Dolittle was published in 1920 and features a delightful bachelor doctor learning to speak to animals from his parrot. He becomes a veterinarian famed throughout the animal kingdom. As a result of this fame, he goes on a long series of adventures in Africa. Eventually, the doctor returns home with the mythical pushmi-pullyu, which allows him to make enough money to retire comfortably with all his pets and animal friends.
In contrast, the 1998 film takes the original premise – a doctor who can talk to animals – and turn it into a farce based on discrimination against the mentally ill. All of the charming aspects of the tale are removed for crass humor. It is poorly done and in very poor taste.