“Dolittle” was comprised of a stellar acting cast, some being voice-overs and others being on set. However, audiences would prefer that the movie just be entirely voice-overs because Robert Downey Jr. just doesn’t live up to the titular title of “Dolittle.” The film is based off the widely known children’s book by Hugh Lofting and has had many adaptations on-screen. Eddie Murphy was, of course, the modern Dr. Dolittle who took care of animals when nobody else would.
In this up-to-date version, Downey Jr. plays Dr. Dolittle. He finds himself lost and is ready to do nothing adventurous for many years to come. That is, until his routine is broken up by a series of unfortunate events. However, before we even dive into the current life of Dolittle, we get some poorly detailed backstory that is narrated by the great Dame Emma Thompson.
Rather than have the actors act out the backstory themselves, the filmmakers preferred a more animated route to get kids excited for the movie they are about to watch. For older audiences, well, you just have to sit through it and pray that the real movie starts soon.
Once audiences see a boy with a hunting rifle who cares for animals, the audience will know the supporting cast quite quickly and it all seems a bit unrealistic. The boy becomes Dolittle’s apprentice by following him around. I guess getting work in 19th Century England as a 12-year-old boy was easier than anybody thought. The boy is played by Harry Collett who was hoping to make a jump on the big screen after this adaptation but may have to wait another year or two before he’s offered another gig.
Older audiences will soon start to figure out which actors are voicing which animals. And by doing this they will learn which ones to ignore the quickest, but also learn which animals will be the lead roles.
Downey Jr. speaks multiple languages but is monolingual toward humans. He knows how to speak squirrel, bear, squid and other surprising languages, but is inept to speak to his own race. Being socially awkward is Downey Jr.’s main characteristic which is unfortunate because it degrades the former Iron Man’s performance.
There is comic relief throughout the film, but older audiences won’t enjoy it. With the film being geared toward children, the jokes lack a sense of humor for adult audiences to laugh at. Downey Jr. does most of the dialogue while the animals do most of the comedy because the filmmakers decided animals are funnier than humans. But the script for Downey Jr. to act on was a failure from the start as he wanted to play the part of Dolittle with a Welsh accent.
One supporting character I would like to call out is Antonio Banderas who plays Dolittle’s father-in-law. What’s upsetting is to see a man with so much talent and nominated for an Oscar (selection in two weeks) stoop to a poorly made family film that denounces his credibility. Fortunately, his screen time lasts only minutes once Downey Jr. gathers his crew to continue their expedition toward a plotless climax.
The movie will end with a similar plot to other films: a group of strangers coming together and becoming a family. What the film lacks is a consistent mood that it wants its audience to experience. With a younger audience, the film gets the appreciation it wants to earn. With an older audience, the film doesn’t quite rach it’s potential. Overall, older audiences will feel they wasted hours that they won’t get back but will acknowledge that some young-at-hearts can find enjoyment in this lackluster film.