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The reclusive doctor who speaks to animals sounds like an excellent premise for a movie. There’s scope for good voiceover acting, tons of room for CGI and the title role sounds idyllic for a potential movie star.
And yet, every time, they actually try and make a movie, it’s a critical disaster. Every time, it sends a rising movie star’s career on a weird tangent. And every time, it somehow ends up being a cult classic.
Dolittle continues the tradition of travesty. With a disinterested Robert Downey Jr playing the title role, too many directors seemed to have been brought on board to commit atrocity after atrocity from Dolittle’s insulting Welsh accent to CGI and human characters not even bothering to make eye contact.
Originally intended to be titled The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, the movie is directed by Stephen Gaghan, who has little to no experience directing CGI movies. In April last year, to rescue the operation, Universal brought in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Razzie-nominated director Jonathan Liebesman as a re-shoot consultant and The Lego Batman Movie’s director Chris McKay as a writer.
Surprise surprise, despite an added 21 days of shooting, putting together a rookie, an award-winningly terrible director and a decent director shoehorned into a writing role, only worsened the CGI concoction that is Dolittle.
The movie starts off with a rushed backstory about veterinary doctor John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr)’s wife Lily (Kasia Smutniak) joining the dead maternal figure society. Cut to a vague amount of time later and John is living the high society recluse life with an assortment of animals including Polynesia the parrot (voiced by Emma Thompson), Chee-Chee the cowardly gorilla (voiced by Rami Malek), Yoshi the polar bear (voiced by John Cena), Plimpton the ostrich (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and many, many more.
It is mindboggling how many big names lent their voices to this movie and even more shocking how misused these voices are, barely matching the mouth movements on screen and at times, with a completely inaccurate tone in the context of the scene.
Anyways, back to the movie. Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) accidentally shoots a squirrel (voiced, quite irritatingly, by comedy legend Craig Robinson) and brings him to Dolittle’s animal asylum, I mean, “sanctuary.”
By pure coincidence, at the same time Queen Victoria sends for Dolittle because she is ill. Why is a human queen sending for a vet? No explanation. How much time does she have? No idea. Why does he need to take an entire circus on the ship through waters and lands with unknown diseases and parasites? No clue.
What is obvious, however, is that Dr Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen) is the small baddie and Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent) is the big baddie, roles they play with entertaining incompetence. The rest of the movie is a muddle of storylines with a stereotypical pirate island with a ruler who hates John (played by Antonio Banderas – yes, that Antonio Banderas, who once and for all proves that maturity does not lead to better decisions when it comes to picking roles) and for some bizarre, undiscernible reason, dragons. I guess a doctor who talks to “real” animals was not enough and Universal had leftover flying lizards from Harry Potter.
Overall, within a year or so, at best, I could see this movie disappearing from all these big name IMDB profiles. At worst, Robert Downey Jr wakes up from his post-Iron Man hangover and publicly disavows this movie.
But in the meantime, the damage is done, and sadly, despite being a phenomenal actor and great human being, the crown of billable movie star evades Tony Stark, I mean, Robert Downey Jr.
And for that affront alone, this movie earns its one out of five popcorn rating.
CAST: Robert Downey Jr, Antonio Banderas, Rami Malek
Directors: Stephen Gaghan
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Runtime: 101 minutes