After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle, famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company. But when the young queen falls gravely ill, a reluctant Dolittle is forced to set sail on an epic adventure to a mythical island in search of a cure, regaining his wit and courage as he crosses old adversaries and discovers wondrous creatures.
We have all watched the Dolittle movies starring Eddie Murphy. I'm not going to lie, I was never a fan of these films. Yes, they're purposefully dumb, innocent, and feature that basic level of comedy. They never annoyed me, but they also never did anything remarkably surprising. 2020's version of the known tale is the first post-MCU role of Robert Downey Jr., it boasts an A-list cast, and… it's one of the worst movies of the year, without a single doubt. A complete disaster in every area of filmmaking.
I don't even know where to start. Maybe with RDJ since he's the most significant negative surprise. I can't believe such a charismatic and now iconic actor like him could deliver a performance this awful. His Welsh (?) accent is not only a terrible choice character-wise, but I doubt that any children can understand what he's saying. RDJ acts like a baffling caricature of himself, not helping an already flawed film. The voice work from the remaining cast might be the only positive of the whole movie, but the CGI animals are way too unconvincing.
However, as always, the most impactful issues belong to the actual story. Instead of being an entertaining and fun adventure, it's an incredibly boring, nonsensical, structure-less journey into one of the most ridiculous third acts of cinema. Even placing myself in a child's mind, I don't think I would be able to enjoy this mess of a screenplay. Like I wrote above, not even the animals look great…
Certain characters possess these unknown relationships that the audience is supposed to care about, but no background is given to any of them. Tons of plot points lack a logical explanation. The entire narrative is void of any creativity or uniqueness whatsoever, looking simply like a lazy, unimaginative piece of work. The "young queen who falls gravely ill" is just a woman sleeping in bed, not looking ill at all, which proves that not even the makeup department was interested in making an effort.
But all of the issues above are nothing compared to the film's climax. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just write that I still can't believe what I witnessed. Around ninety minutes of build-up lead to the most shocking, hilarious, utterly absurd moment. The humor is a level below childish. Dozens of fart jokes (including one during the climax), over-the-top reactions, and I don't even know what else. Between Bloodshot, Fantasy Island, and The Grudge… Let the devil come and choose!
All in all, Dolittle is a massive fail at all levels. It was meant to be one of the worst movies of the year, and it undoubtedly accomplished this goal. From the surprisingly awful performance from Robert Downey Jr. to one of the most shockingly terrible climaxes in the history of cinema, Stephen Gaghan delivers a structure-less screenplay, filled with nonsensical narrative decisions, and featuring an extremely dull adventure. The CGI animals are far from being remotely impressive, the characters lack personality (bringing an A-list actor doesn't guarantee anything), and the comedy is so astonishingly basic that I doubt kids will laugh at some of the jokes, and they laugh at everything. With a budget of 175M (!!!), it's not understandable how and why a studio would waste this much money on such an obvious flop. The voice work from the cast is good… and it genuinely could have been worse. This is the closest I can get to a positive.
Universal Pictures, Team Downey, Perfect World Pictures, RK films by Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand, Thomas Shepherd, Hugh Lofting.
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent.
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Keywords: based on novel or book island ship victorian england doctor based on children's book animal veterinary talking to animals voyage
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