Dolittle is the most recent film incarnation based on the titular character created by author Hugh Lofting. This one stars Robert Downey Jr. and is produced by his and his wife’s production company, Team Downey.
I’ve been a fan of the Doctor Dolittle character since I was a child, and a fan of Downey’s work for decades. So I had really high hopes for this film.
In this movie, Dolittle is a hermit following the death of his wife, who was a brave explorer.
Sequestered away from humans, he spends his unkempt days locked away in his London nature preserve, playing chess with his best friend Chee Chee (Rami Malek), who also happens to be a gorilla.
See, Dolittle is a doctor who has mastered the art of speaking to and understanding animals, and has decided he prefers their company to his fellow humans.
But his solitude is interrupted by two children: a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) who accidentally shoots and wounds a squirrel named Kevin (Craig Robinson), and is guided to Dolittle for help by a macaw named Polynesia (Emma Thompson); and Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado), an emissary of Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), with a message ordering Dolittle to try to cure the queen of a deadly sickness.
What follows is an adventure that finds Dolittle joined by Tommy and Lady Rose, and the doctor’s animal friends: Chee-Chee, Yoshi the polar bear (John Cena), Plimpton the ostrich (Kumail Nanjiani), Dab-Dab the duck (Octavia Spencer), and Mini the sugar glider (Nick A. Fisher).
Other humans Dolittle encounter on the journey include his lifelong rival Dr. Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen), and his former father-in-law King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas). Both actors chew up the scenery when their characters appear. Not quite cartoonish, but definitely larger-than-life personalities.
It should’ve been a really fun family adventure film.
But for me, it fell just a bit short. The story felt lightweight, with flat jokes and corny lines. The visuals were done really well, though.
And Robert Downey Jr deserved a better showcase of his talents that this movie just didn’t deliver for me.
It’s not a horrible movie – it’s still enjoyable – but it could’ve been better.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Tommy Stubbins, Carmel Laniado, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard
[All images courtesy of and copyright Universal Pictures]
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