Eddie Murphy regains his audience by going PG with ''Dr. Dolittle''
Eddie Murphy’s box office win with ”Dr. Dolittle” (which earned $29 million last weekend) shows that the comic actor learned a lesson from his 1996 comeback film, the $125 million-grossing ”The Nutty Professor.” Although both ”Dolittle” and ”Nutty” have their share of the raunchy humor that Murphy fans expect, these PG-13-rated films are decidedly upbeat, appealing to kids, teenagers, and parents alike. (Past underachievers, the R-rated ”A Vampire in Brooklyn” and ”Boomerang,” attracted only hardcore Murphy fans.) ”Eddie has found a way to reposition and repackage himself that fits with what a broad audience wants to see him doing,” says CNN film analyst Martin Grove. ”There wasn’t a big audience for the Eddie Murphy who was doing more serious and angrier films.”
For someone with the top two films at the box office (”Mulan,” for which he provided the voice of a wisecracking dragon, earned $17.3 million), Murphy has remained a silent winner. The only publicity he did for either of these films was an HBO ”Behind the Scenes” special for ”Dolittle.” After all, it’s easier to attract a family audience when talk-show hosts aren’t asking why you picked up a transsexual prostitute last May. ” ‘Dr. Dolittle’ did really well in small-town markets,” says Robert Bucksbaum, from the box office projection firm Reel Source. ”If the press had brought up his little incident, that would have hurt him there. People forget about those things quickly, but the press would have reminded them.” — Josh Wolk