Directed and co-written by Stephen Gaghan, Dolittle stars
Robert Downey Jr. as Doctor Dolittle, the famed physician of animals who can
also communicate with them. Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) is dying, and
Dolittle must embark on a perilous journey across the world to discover a cure
that lies within an undiscovered land, all the while learning how to restore
his hope and faith in humans once more.
Oscar winning writer of Traffic, and director of Syriana and Gold,
Stephen Gaghan is truly a perplexing choice to helm a $175 million kids movie
featuring complex visual effects that incorporate real actors with CGI animals
into some massive visual set pieces. In fact, the director that was hired to
oversee reshoots following poor test screenings, Jonathan Liebesman, seems like
a far better fit having made equally massive and complex action movies like Wrath
of the Titans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. None of this really
affects the actual quality of the film, because multiple directors or not, this
is a painful movie to sit through. Not a single piece of humour or attempt at
characterisation landed, and thus the action sequences look like a
Frankenstein’s monster work of a visual effects company taking all their
rejected work from various movies and tying it together…somehow.
Dolittle looks and feels like a fake movie. After sitting through all 100 minutes (although feels far longer), I’m still not sure any of this was real, and that I didn’t see an extended fake trailer. There was a point in the middle of all this absolute nonsense where I hit a total existential crisis. Why am I here? What am I doing? Why do I do this to myself? This was a total Cats moment.
What’s worse is that this isn’t some insipid producer
constantly trying to milk every ounce of creativity out of a certain
intellectual property, or an adaptation of a beloved source material that needs
to be done right to appease fans. This is a passion project from Robert Downey
Jr.! And like most passion projects, they have gone through so many false
starts, countless writers rooms, and have sunk millions in pre-production money
that the final result resembles nothing of the vision that made it a passion
project to begin with.
Downey Jr. feels like he is playing Sherlock Holmes all over
again, just as manic and clumsy, only now with a questionable Welsh accent and
with every single line of dialogue he delivers sounding either whispered or
being obvious ADR to make up for copious reshoots and rewrites. At most times,
Downey Jr.’s Dolittle feels like a half-assed attempt at making a new Pirates
of the Caribbean-esque lead
character to usurp the iconic Jack Sparrow, but every choice made leads to the
overacted mistakes that resigned that character to be the sad punchline that it
A huge selling point for the movie is its stacked cast of
voice actors behind the various animals, such as Emma Thompson, Tom Holland,
John Cena, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Ralph Fiennes, Selena
Gomez and many more. However, they’re all assigned to supporting “characters”
who all speak in clichés or spout such bland, first-draft jokes that should
have been mercifully cut. What became quite clear once things started to get
going, was that every actor sounded like they recorded their dialogue in a day
with little direction, leaving it up to the editors and animators to just shove
in what they had, regardless of whether it was funny or made narrative sense.
In the end, nothing does, so we never care about what’s going on.
Dolittle is a pretty terrible movie, and while its
intended audience is for small children, it doesn’t even entertain in the way
that anything Illumination (Minions)
makes does. This is a poorly made, inconsistently performed, and completely
inexplicable garbage dump that settles on having no originality whatsoever. It
aims for never-ending mediocrity, hoping that that will be enough to save it
from being a Cats-level failure. Nice try, but none of it works. While Dolittle
isn’t as deliriously ghastly or hilariously misguided as Cats, it’s just
as cheap, bland, and completely uninspired.
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