- Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen
- Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand
- Stephen Gaghan
- PG (Canada, United States)
- Running Time
- 101 minutes
- Release Date
- January 17th, 2020
After such a troubled production featuring delays, reshoots, and rewrites, Dolittle, formerly The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, has now arrived in the doomed “January dump” spot. Now this release date isn’t necessarily cause for concern as some films do break through that reputation, however, this certainly was not the case here. Perhaps cutting their loses, this final product does appear to have gone through quite a bit of tinkering, resulting in a mess that overshadows what could have been a decent family film. Robert Downey Jr. clearly needs a new franchise after serving as Iron Man for over a decade but this unfortunately ain’t it. While it’s not like he needs the money, it is a little baffling as to why he would agree to take on a role like this (now that’s a conversation for another time).
When it comes to the character of Dr. Dolittle, he has existed for decades, predating the Eddie Murphy series of films. This new film serves as a remake of the 1967 film starring Rex Harrison as the titular doctor (so it’s a period film). For the few who are unfamiliar with the character or the series, Dr. John Dolittle (Downey Jr.) is an eccentric doctor with the ability to talk to animals. He was obviously an animal lover who opened up the doors of his large estate, given to him by Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), until a tragedy would lead him to become a recluse and finding solace in his close circle of animal friends while closing his doors to the outside world. Clearly that wasn’t going to last forever as the fate of his estate and animal sanctuary was in jeopardy.
In the end, with Dolittle, there’s not much story to be had as its already thin characters, human and animal, are relegated to mostly cheesy one-liners and weird accents. Boring characters along with a dull and predictable story make it a chore to watch for most audiences. While it may have a running time of 100+ minutes, it will feel longer than that at times. Of course there will still be several moments that will appeal more to younger audiences but they get old fast. Though those who have seen any of the trailers should get a fairly good idea of what happens here, it’s all about the perilous journey taken by Dolittle along with his animal friends, a parrot named Polly (Emma Thompson), a gorilla named Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), a duck named Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer), an ostrich named Plumpton (Kumail Nanjiani), and a polar bear named Yoshi (John Cena), and a young boy named Stubbins (Sonny Ashbourne Serkis).
The production design may be good and while the CGI animals were decent, none of those things matter with an awful script. Not only was the humor unfunny, characters were painful to watch. It’s disappointing to see as it was clear that there was so much more there. As a result, the performances in Dolittle, both human and animal, felt phoned-in. As far as the human actors were concerned, Downey Jr. is obviously charming but as Dolittle, he reverts to his same shtick which somewhat works here though with a questionable accent. Banderas and Sheen also appeared in minor roles as King Rassouli and Dr. Blair Müdfly respectively and were fine with the latter saddled with truly cringe-worthy material. The voice acting was fine across the board with Nanjiani standing out thanks to bringing his own personality to Plumpton.
At the end of the day, Dolittle may entertain some younger audiences but in the long run is destined to be one of the biggest flops of 2020 which is a shame considering all those involved. Nobody will remember this in 6 months.
*still courtesy of Universal Pictures*