Dolittle movie review: Robert Downey Jr’s disastrous film is worst thing to happen to animals since climate change
Dolittle movie review: Robert Downey Jr’s post-Avengers career is off to a very shaky start.Updated: Jan 17, 2020 13:06 IST
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Martin Sheen, Tom Holland, Emma Thompson and others
As we near the end of beloved star Robert Downey Jr’s latest film, Dolittle, we are met with an episode so utterly nonsensical, few things in life could top it. There he is, the ‘billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, genius,’ with both his arms up a CGI dragon’s behind, pulling out bagpipes from her rectum. In that moment, you wonder if it is your duty as a fellow human being to write to Marvel on Downey’s behalf, urging them to take him back. I’d much rather watch a dozen mediocre films of him flying about in tin suits than giving colonoscopies to fantastical creatures.
Watch Dolittle trailer here
Dolittle is a train wreck of such colossal measures that no amount of fighting writers, meddling studio heads or incessant cash flow could have saved. The script -- much like the motivation to make even a passable film -- is non-existent, the performances are uninspired and the CGI undercooked. I racked my brains hard to come up with a single good thing to say about it but the best I can manage is that it’s short so the suffering ends quickly enough.
Director Stephen Gaghan’s Dolittle is based on Hugh Lofting’s second book in the Dolittle series: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. Unlike Eddie Murphy’s 1998 film which was set in present time, this one stays true to the period when the books were published. So, here we are in the 19th century, when a young Queen of England has fallen gravely ill and requires help from one Doctor Dolittle. The doctor, however, has resigned himself to a life of isolation from humans since his wife died—still an unchallenged, easiest way to bring ‘depth’ to a hollow, studio-manufactured character.
Of course, the Doctor has found company in his impossible assortment of exotic creatures, gathered from world over, played by internet’s favourite actors such as Tom Holland, John Cena, Selena Gomez and others. There’s a scaredy gorilla, a wise parrot, a sassy ostrich, a nice polar bear, a squirrel that maintains a journal like Rorschach, a half-wit duck, and a dog that is so dull I can’t even muster an adjective for him. As is tradition with adventure films, the Doctor takes some convincing before he finally relents and embarks upon a voyage to distant lands, in search of a cure for the queen. Oh! I forgot to mention there is also a tow-away boy with him but it’s okay, you wouldn’t notice him anyway.
In between the dozen of them, the animals may just manage to wriggle out half a dozen laughs (a generous word for letting a guff of air out your nostrils) through the entirety of the film. They are cartoonish and just plain boring, unable to induce empathy or even a single ‘aww’.
Downey is not without fault either as he puts on a weird Welsh accent to talk to his animals. Admittedly, Downey says he did google ‘weirdest Welsh doctor’ to find inspiration for his role and accent. The laziness of a Google search shows through Downey’s performance as well. He mumbles through the film, often to a point of inaudibility despite the unfailing Dolby Atmos. The hushed voice is supposed to add to the eccentricity of widower adventurer but all it does is make him appear like the discounted version of Captain Jack Sparrow with stupid, talking animals as stand-ins for the zombie pirates. Initially, you wonder why a man of his talents is wasted on something like this but soon enough, you realise he is not suffering at the hands of this film like us, he is actively adding to our suffering.
Gaghan, an Oscar-winning screenwriter, already had disaster written on his film. With another director on board and a month of reshoots, one was sure that nothing much should be expected of the film. An incensed crew member’s Twitter rant about Gaghan’s ‘batsh*t’ work ethics and subsequent banishment from sets, did nothing to calm the nerves of Downey’s fans. As feared, the end product does look like a visceral waste of manpower and money.
The CGI which was supposed to be the one driving factor for the film is shoddy and incomplete even after sitting three years inside a computer. The animals’ bodies often times do not match their surroundings and every time a human looks one in the eye, you wonder if these many animals could actually be cross-eyed. The dialogues are unimaginative and dull and the jokes rarely land on time. Sometimes, literally. Many of the lines appeared to have been over-dubbed on Downey and his other human friends, adding to the unfinished look of the film.
Dolittle is a big waste of our and Downey’s time. It is born out of a troubled home with a disappointing elder sibling (Cats is also a Universal production) and I wouldn’t even recommend it to your children—it’d be disrespecting their intelligence. The best I can hope for is to make it to Buzzfeed’s list of ‘most scathing Dolittle reviews’. That might just make it worth it.
Nah, it probably won’t.
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