HomeMovies'Dolittle' Review: Aggressively Bad, but at Least Easily Forgettable

‘Dolittle’ Review: Aggressively Bad, but at Least Easily Forgettable

Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Look, I think I’m just going to be pretty straightforward with Dolittle because it’s what we all knew and could’ve guessed about it since the first footage was shown: it aggressively sucks. It’s unsurprising since the trailer was such a monstrosity of terrible CGI and the onslaught of notable names was the only real selling point. However, not even notable names or the face of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr., playing the iconic character can make this adaptation of the children’s book series by Hugh Lofting anywhere near tolerable. But, I’m not one to summarize my feelings like this, so, we have no choice but to embark on this perilous journey and delve into the disastrous nature of Dolittle.

The film follows a more reclusive and closed-off Dr. John Dolittle (Downey Jr.) after he closes his animal physician’s practice after the death of his wife. Dolittle is no ordinary doctor, though, as he can speak just about every animal’s language and has grown to favor animals rather than other people. However, when the Queen of England (Jessie Buckley) falls ill, he comes out of isolation in order to save her. To get the cure for the Queen’s illness, Dolittle must venture on the same journey that led his wife to die at sea. With the help of his animal friends and new human friend, Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), Dolittle goes on a “treacherous” adventure to save the Queen and regain his confidence.

First of all, the CGI animals are ghastly, and you never buy into or believe that they’re there. They all look incredibly fake and honestly frightening with how they’re designed. Any close-up is unwarranted and unwanted—especially when it comes to James the Dragonfly (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas). I mean, have you ever googled what a dragonfly face looks like? I have, and it looks super creepy. Imagine that on a big screen and totally zoomed in whenever it talks and you don’t have something charming or cute, but the stuff of nightmares. In total seriousness, though, even for all of my issues with Disney’s remake of The Lion King last year, it set a new standard for what realistic animals should look like on screen and what Dolittle offers is just plain embarrassing.

Even the crazy amount of celebrity voices attached to Dolittle’s animal friends don’t help, as they’re given lines full of cliché jokes and groan-worthy puns. No one is really trying too hard and there are very few laughs. Even the younger children in my audience weren’t interested enough to laugh—which is sad because the humor is really geared towards them. There’s such little energy or care put behind the voice work that you can actually feel the hurt and sighs of disappointment that likely came from the actors speaking this cliché dialogue. It’s a shame to see the likes of Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Marion Cotillard, Ralph Fiennes, and so many others go down with this sad ship, but they’re so great that they all thankfully recover from this just fine.

Hopefully, the same can be said about Downey Jr. because this is definitely one of his weakest and most phoned-in performances. His, I think, Irish accent is terrible, and he looks as if he’s constantly looking for the eject button to get the hell out of this movie—especially when a dragon comes into play. Look, while this is definitely a spoiler, there’s no way I could sum up how embarrassing this is for him than describing not only the worst scene of the movie, but likely of the year.

Things get so ridiculous and weird in this film that there’s a scene where Dolittle gets farted on by the dragon (voiced by Frances de la Tour) after pulling armor and other odd things out of its butt. No, I’m completely serious, this happened, and my eyes can’t un-see it. I witnessed one of the most likable, talented, and genuinely talented actors of our time pull things out of a dragon’s butt and get farted on. It’s the kind of moment that hits you and makes you realize that he’s probably never going to live down now and makes it seem like he could be in a rough spot after giving a decade long, career-defining performance.

Now, granted, I don’t think this film is any sort of telling sign of Downey Jr. in a post MCU career, as he has to float on a weak script and isn’t given the courtesy of being a voice hiding behind an animal, but it’s definitely not a good look. Dolittle is also a bad look for Antonio Banderas, especially during a strong awards season for him, as he’s totally forgettable and lifeless as King Rassoulli. The same can be said about Michael Sheen as the dastardly, mustache-twirling villain of the film as he delivers awful jokes and is just there for the sake of having a villain.

Sadly, Dolittle isn’t even the kind of film that’s “so bad it’s good” because it’s so incredibly dull and boring. The “adventure” they go on has no sense of the world, there’s zero stakes or real danger, and you really don’t care about anything that’s happening on screen. The film also barely follows its own rules, with some of Dolittle’s interactions with animals, like two mischievous monkeys, not having human speech and there’re some moments where it seems like he is talking to all of the animals or multiple ones and it doesn’t make sense that he can do that because the film shows him speaking to them through their own unique languages.

The film also opens with an animated sequence that delves into Dolittle’s past and I just kept thinking about how much better the film would’ve been for kids if it were animated because the more adult jokes that are shoved in didn’t work at all. Seeing an octopus saying that snitches get stitches and an ant make a Godfather joke are just two of the many forced, lazy attempts to add jokes for grown-ups.

Like I said at the start, Dolittle aggressively sucks, but thankfully, this film will be easy to forget. I’m sure that many of great talent in this film, especially Downey Jr., won’t look back fondly on it, but have a much brighter future ahead of them. If surprisingly fun films like Underwater and Bad Boys for Life have made you forget that January usually sucks for movies, Dolittle is a painful reminder of what this month is supposed to feel like.

Dolittle is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.


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