After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle, famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company.But when the young queen falls gravely ill, a reluctant Dolittle is forced to set sail on an epic adventure to a mythical island in search of a cure, regaining his wit and courage as he crosses old adversaries and discovers wondrous creatures.
I know, I know, when most of us think about the character Dr. Dolittle we instantly think of Eddie Murphy. Murphy’s Dolittle was modern, had a family, and essentially was a normal guy who just so happens to have the ability to speak to animals. Well shake, rattle, and roll we have something new. In Dolittle, we are presented with a Dr. John Dolittle that’s a living legend of his time and seems to be based more closely on the 1920s book, The Story of Doctor Dolittle. Set in a time where traveling by ships equipped with cannons is still the norm and Queen Victoria has only been reigning for a short time. Unlike Murphy’s Dolittle, this version goes on adventures along with his wife, Lily and an assorted gang of animals. It’s a story filled with grief, wonderment, friendship, and self-actualization. With RDJ at the helm and star-studded cast doing the voiceovers for our animal friends, the movie seemed like a guaranteed winner. I really wanted to like this movie but as I started writing my notes down, it all unraveled. Despite its initial charm, Dolittle falls short in categories that could’ve made this movie the new fun adventure saga that we’d all look forward to. While there are undeniable laughs throughout the movie, the jokes aren’t that clever. With the animals playing such a huge role, it’s a shame that their dialogue wasn’t more thought out. As I assume the target audience is children, just not sure what age. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and understand more than we know. The action sequences were lacking but they were on par with the rest of the movie. Dolittle’s accent was a little wonky and it sounded different on multiple occasions. Being aware of some reshoots, I assume that’s why. The characters lacked depth and back story leaving me to make assumptions and ask questions that should’ve been answered. It all felt unfinished, like an undercooked pizza. All the perfect ingredients were there but now I’m chewing dough wondering what the hell happened. However, the movie can still be fun and enjoyable as long as you don’t think about it too much. The score, done by Danny Elfman, fit perfectly and the production design was vibrant and creative. You’re younger children will probably love it, but they love every movie with talking animals. Overall, it’s a fun movie but not a great film.
Plot & Pace
This movie moves almost too fast at times. There’s not much time for character development or back story, as there are so many characters. A reluctant Dolittle must go on a quest that will save his sanctuary, the queen, and also find what his lost love was in search of. Along the way, his past comes back to hunt him down and foil his plans. While the plot sounds interesting, it isn’t executed the best. With such an exceptional cast, I expected more. If a sequel is in the works, they have some work to do.
Characters & Chemistry
Even with the wonky accent and subpar writing, Robert Downey Jr. as Dolittle was able to do what he does best… entertain. He was energetic, eccentric, and not afraid to make cringy animal noises. His most appealing chemistry was with Polynesia the parrot (Emma Thompson) and Chee-Chee the gorilla (Rami Malek). Poly was a no nonsense parrot who had to flap some sense into Dolittle to get him out of his own despair. Chee-Chee kept the Doctor on his toes as he had confidence issues that constantly needed Dolittle’s attention. A standout character was Craig Robinson as a squirrel named Kevin. He’s loyal to the team but also out for revenge. He’s probably the funniest character in the movie
Dolittle releases in theaters on January 17th. Enjoy the movie.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Runtime: 1h 41m
Rating: 2.5 out of 5