By Brennan Atkins
Arts & Features Editor
By Noah Barnes
“Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan, features a star-studded cast including names such as Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland, Selena Gomez, Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes, John Cena, and even Oscar-winning stars such as Rami Malek and Octavia Spencer.
The film is based on the beloved Doctor Dolittle character created by Hugh Lofting, and is played by Robert Downey Jr. (RDJ), who is arguably at the height of his career.
RDJ’s iteration of Dr. John Dolittle is interesting to say the least – he has a very strong Welsh accent, and it sounds as if his lines may have been dubbed over – poorly at that. Some scenes that are exploding with action have him whispering at best, while other times, he’s screaming in a quiet room.
RDJ doesn’t bring anything special, and this is certainly one of his more forgettable roles to date. RDJ is an excellent actor given the right script, but ultimately looks bored and unsure of himself throughout the film.
It feels like there’s a strong possibility this casting choice was the only reason the rest of the film was made. It’s as if they’re taking a page from the “Cats” playbook. They overload the movie with huge stars only to lack content.
The story revolves around Dr. Dolittle, a physician with the unique ability to talk to animals. With his crew of animal companions, Dolittle embarks on a quest to an unknown island.
That just about wraps up the whole story. There isn’t much here and it’s your typical “it’s about the adventure, not the destination” plot in which the characters all grow together.
Of course, this is a kids’ film, but so is Eddie Murphy’s “Dr. Dolittle,” and at least that didn’t have headache-inducing attempts at comedy.
The humor is juvenile and lazy, not to mention thrown into every other line in the film. A lot of the jokes are callbacks to jokes they’ve already made.
Yes. We get it. The goose (played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer) thinks the celery are forceps – it’s the fifth time.
Not a single joke lands, to an extent that you almost feel bad for the film.
The cinematography featured in this film simply gets the job done and nothing more. It’s mostly continuity editing for the sake of keeping the movie intact, but not many creative liberties were taken behind the camera.
To be blunt, the animals may be the worst part of the whole film.
That “star-studded” cast we were talking about earlier is ultimately wasted on semi-decent renders of Dolittle’s best mates. Rami Malek plays a gorilla that’s scared of everything, Tom Holland plays a dog with glasses, and John Cena plays a polar bear that … gets cold easily.
Each animal has an odd “humorous” character flaw that is used in about every bit of their respective dialogue. If you say it enough times, it’s funny, right?
It’s just very odd to blend this kind of cookie-cutter comedy with an intense action movie – it destroys the pacing of the film. One scene – which actually wasn’t awful – is when Tommy (Harry Collett) is riding a giraffe through London streets.
This goofiness quickly wears off when, seemingly out of nowhere, Dolittle gets in a naval battle with Dr. Blair Müdfly (Micheal Sheen) and all the animals are bracing for impact – definitely an odd direction for the narrative.
The CGI in some scenes could’ve looked a lot worse – some of the world elements, as well as some of the animal renders, actually look pretty good.
It feels as if Gaghan had no idea what this film was going to be about, what the actors are going to do or say, or how to write comedy because this film is extremely forgettable.
It’s definitely a kids’ movie to the core, but that doesn’t mean it can’t contain compelling characters, a gripping story, and jokes that take more than 13 seconds of writing. The Oscar-winning “Toy Story 4” was able to accomplish all of these feats and can still be dubbed “a kids’ movie.”
If it were up to us, we would stick to Eddie Murphy.