First, I’ll start by saying Dolittle is decidedly a children’s movie, preferably for children who will laugh at anything. If you’re the adult, who has to take said children, I’m sorry. Look, Walt Disney Animation and Pixar have shown you can entertain adults just as much as their children, and Dolittle does none of that.
On a positive note, I love RDJ, and the film is loaded with good intentions. It just doesn’t work. Starting with RDJ, he took a risk with the character of Dolittle. He’s a soft-spoken man with a lumbering English-accent and a somewhat low energy one at that. This low energy transfers into the tone of the film. His excitement is subdued and bursts out during the select moments of the story.
Then there are the animals. Toy Story and Avengers are good examples of how to succeed with a large star-studded cast. In Dolittle, the animals are essentially cartoon characters—cute creatures with quirks. Rami Malek is the fearful gorilla and the joke for most of the characters is they play against their species-type. Like an animated feature, each part was recorded separately, and somehow the filmmakers could never mesh to vocal performances together as if they were in the same room riffing off one another. Each performance feels disjointed and separate from the other.
“The overall story is fine as the gang goes on an adventure and is faced with challenges along the way.”
For comedy, all the animals are wise-cracking jokesters. Everything they say leads to or is a punchline of some kind. Not only that but what they say is often American colloquialisms. It’s like walking into a room full of that guy, who is always telling jokes or attempting to be funny at a party, except now the guy is a cute furry animal.
The other colossal misstep is a similar one from before. More often than not, it feels like Dr. Dolittle is not connecting at all with his animated animal counterparts. It’s almost as if Robert Downey, Jr. was speaking to nothing and then someone added an animal to that blank space in post-production. HINT: That’s exactly what happens and it feels that way. That’s why, the doctor often feels like he’s not in on the any of the animal jokes, because the joke was written after the fact.
The overall story is fine as the gang goes on an adventure and is faced with challenges along the way. Kids will enjoy the life lessons offered and Dr. Dolittle becomes somewhat of a Wizard of Oz to his friends. But it’s insulting to think that children will see a movie solely because you have animals that talk and act silly. It’s even worse than you’ve locked parents inside a movie theater and subject them to this childish torture. That’s what I’ll be thinking when my child drags me into seeing Dolittle one more time.
"…the animals are essentially cartoon characters—cute creatures with quirks."