I really wanted this to be better than I was expecting. And while it wasn’t a complete train wreck, it wasn’t what I needed it to be.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Screenwriter: Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen
Genre: Adventure, Family
Runtime: 101 Minutes
Rating: 2 Stars
Reviewed by: Pearl
We have all heard the less than flattering responses to RDJs first post MCU release. I tried not to let that influence me too much and went into this just hoping to see a goofy kids’ film and see RDJ give a shaky performance with a somewhat dodgy accent. And the good news is that I certainly got at least some of those things.
After the tragic death of his wife, Dr John Dolittle locks himself away in this mansion, and refuses to deal any more with humans, choosing to live with his animals. During a hunting accident, Tommy Stubbins shoots a squirrel, so follows Dolittles’ parrot companion Polly, (who miraculously happens to be in just the right place at the right time) back to Dolittles’ mansion where a series of events mean that they are sent on an adventure to retrieve a magical fruit that will help save the life of the ailing Queen Victoria.
There were parts of this film I loved. The actual storyline wasn’t too bad, it was the same recycled plot that we had seen a thousand time before in children’s adventure stories, but there is a reason this formula works. But the story lost me as soon as dragons were introduced. And the weird colonoscopy scene that followed put me off even more. At what part in the writers round table did someone suggest Dragon Proctology and everyone said “YES! That’s Genius!” Spoiler Alert!! Not Genius! Or funny. Just unnecessary really.
All kids movies require a slight suspense of belief. That is just the nature of the films. But being expected to believe that the closest confidante of the Queen of England is a preteen girl and that a teenage boy can ‘learn’ to talk to animals the way Dolittle does, is just a bit too much. It takes away from the fact his gift is mean to be ‘extraordinary’ if anyone can apparently learn to do it.
With a cast that consists of some of the best actors available today, it is amazing at the amount they are underused. Emma Thomson probably has the most to do, but with the shaky dialogue they are given, it all just goes to waste. And RDJ himself here also doesn’t give the best of his performances. We know how capable he can be, and while there are moments where he pulls it out the bag, there are far too many where he doesn’t.
Kids will probably love this film. It has talking animals and humour that is very obviously aimed at children. Bright. Beautiful costumes and an easy to follow plot. But beside that, there are so many issues with this film that I can’t recommend it in good confidence.
Dolittle is out in UK cinemas now.