Dolittle Does Little for Critics

Highlights from the week in criticism.
June 23 2001 12:00 AM

Dolittle Does Little for Critics

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Movies
The Fast and the Furious (Universal Pictures). The best thing about this film? The incredibly cool tricked-out street rods. Critics say it's far better than recent car flicks like Driven and Gone in 60 Seconds; it's "a gritty and gratifying cheap thrill … the sort of film that used to be a Hollywood staple but is now in short supply … gives the feel of being rooted in a certain subculture's genuine obsession for hot wheels" (Todd McCarthy, Daily Variety). Yes, it's strictly B-movie fare, but "[a]s long as you keep expectations in low gear, you just might consider this guilty-pleasure ride to be a real gas" (Susan Wloszczyna, USA Today). Elvis Mitchell is less amused than most critics, complaining it's too generic, though he does appear impressed by one scene in which a low-slung Acura drives under a semi, "a sequence that will blast adrenaline through audiences and a chill of horror through parents who hope their children aren't inspired to duplicate such tricks with the family's Chrysler van" (the New York Times). (Click here to read David Edelstein's review in Slate.)—E.T.

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Dr. Dolittle 2 (20th Century Fox). Critics say that although "parents who have been dragged into past kiddie-pic trenches won't come out battered and scarred" after this film (Mike Clark, USA Today), they're not going to love it, either. The movie, following a doctor (Eddie Murphy) who can talk to animals, is better than the first, but "simply can't escape its unfortunate obsession with bathroom humor" (Kenneth Turan, the Los Angeles Times). One fan pipes up with a fantastic review, saying the film "has all the symptoms of a sure-fire smash hit" (Joe Leydon, Daily Variety), but most just praise the special effects and say the rest is tolerable. (Click here to watch the trailer.)—E.T.

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Books
Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, by Henry Kissinger (Simon & Schuster). Critics answer in the affirmative, but some say this Republican elder statesman is not necessarily the man to write the script. Kissinger argues that U.S. foreign policy has become increasingly ad hoc and that Americans are taking their own pre-eminence for granted. So in this slim book he offers chapter-by-chapter assessments of key countries and how the United States should relate to them. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wondered why Kissinger chose to retread themes he had dealt with before. "But as you get into it, you start to realize that it was not intended for library shelves. … In many ways it has an audience of one: President George W. Bush." Others find the book peppered with "artful excuses" for actions ordered by Nixon and Kissinger. "His discussion of suitable policies toward Asia will disgust anyone who remembers the policies he recommended while in office" (Warren I. Cohen, the Los Angeles Times). (Read the first chapter here.)—L.S.

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To purchase this book from barnesandnoble.com, click here.

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Getting a Life, by Helen Simpson (Alfred A. Knopf). This new short story collection should establish this British author's reputation in the United States, critics say. Simpson, who "may remind you of Lorrie Moore with a BBC accent," takes a "frighteningly unsentimental" look at middle-class family life (Jay McInerney, the New York Times). These "absorbing, smart short stories," set in the London suburbs, create a "world seen through the eyes of career moms, stay-at-home moms, their husbands, daughters and scornful teen babysitters. … [The] dialogue is dead-on, and so is [Simpson's] skill with the unspoken, inner monologues constantly running through her characters' heads" (M.A. Turner, the Harford Courant). "The women don't confront the men but instead seethe and contemptuously carve them up with scalpel eyes. At times the reader wants to shake [the characters] and demand they revolt. In her relentless anatomy of their lives, Simpson is doing just that" (Laurie Stone, the Los Angeles Times). (Read the story "Golden Apples"here.)— L.S.

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To purchase this book from barnesandnoble.com, click here.