By Renee Xiang,
With an impressive lineup of actors, including Hollywood’s beloved Robert Downey Jr., a jaw-dropping budget of $175 million and continual pre-release buzz, “Dolittle” completely falls flat over its uninvolving characters, sloppy editing and poorly-written screenplay.
The movie starts off with the eponymous animal doctor living in seclusion, his only friends being a troupe of animals that he can speak to. Upon his fateful encounter with two young children, however, the doctor discovers he must set off on an oceanic voyage in search of a mysterious island.
The premise of the storyline is quite promising —the audience expects Dr. Dolittle and his companions to embark on a swashbuckling adventure full of intrigue and fun — but unfortunately within the first 10 minutes, the film reaches its high point, with the remaining hour and a half being a downhill disaster.
The most striking issue with “Dolittle” is its total lack of cohesion. There seems to be entire chunks of footage missing between scenes, with would-be pivotal events taking place off-screen so that one of the characters can have more screen time to deliver another unamusing joke.
The movie flits back and forth between comedy, adventure and fantasy in such a jarring and incongruent manner that it ultimately fails at claiming any of the three genres. Granted, this tonal indecisiveness is not a complete surprise given the film’s history.
Production for “Dolittle” began in March 2018, and was originally set to be released in mid-2019, but after receiving a slew of negative test screening results, the movie went under extensive reshoots and post-production retooling.
The fact that several facets of the film were fixed or adjusted in post is troublingly evident, with obvious automated dialogue-replacement and shots that appear to be carelessly stitched together reappearing all throughout its duration.
A considerable amount of the publicity received by this movie can also be attributed to the fact that it was Robert Downey Jr.’s first role after his departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But even with all his undeniable charm, Downey Jr.’s performance as Dr. Dolittle is lackluster, and each line he delivers comes out as an incoherent whisper, muddled by an inexplicable Welsh accent.
The rest of the cast is not much better off —the animals, voiced by an array of very talented actors, are hindered by CGI that is mildly convincing at best, and throughout the film relegated to the sole purpose of telling unforgivably bad one-liners. Harry Collett, who plays Dr. Dolittle’s young apprentice Stubbins, tries to do his best with the script, but ends up portraying a static and uninteresting character.
The lost potential of this movie comes to light in the only enjoyable character it has to offer —Michael Sheen’s Dr. Blair Müdfly.
Sheen, amongst all the Hollywood big names in the cast, seems to be the only one embracing the silly, whimsical spoof that this movie was meant to be. His over-the-top villainous acting and facial expressions give the audience a tantalizing glimpse of the burlesque of a fantasy movie “Dolittle” could have been.
In closing, “Dolittle” was a bit of a disaster. Its convoluted plot line and tonal inconsistency make it thoroughly unentertaining and a waste of a talented cast. Even with all its delays and reshoots, producers and editors failed to make this movie into the fun family adventure film that it originally set out to be.
If you’re a movie lover, you’ll be best off turning a blind eye to this one.