Dolittle (4K Blu-ray Review)

Robert Downey Jr. returns after his epic demise in Endgame with a little family movie reimagining Dr. Doolittle.  Rex Harrison’s first incarnation remains the one to beat, despite being dated. Eddie Murphy had a nice retread that worked for me in the 90’s but which wore off considerably as an adult. Does RDJ save the storied history of the doc who can talk to the animals? Or is it just as bad as you read it was?





Once again, Dolittle revolves around Dr. John Dolittle (RDJ!) who has a knack for speaking to animals. His communication makes him an ideal doctor for those animals in need and he and his wife Lily (Kasia Smutniak) run a sanctuary for animals of all types.  When Lily dies at sea, Dr. Dolittle goes into exile, speaking only to animals and cutting himself off from the rest of the world.

As fate would have it, a boy named Stubbins (Harry Collett) is out in the woods near the sanctuary.  He is reluctantly hunting with his father and brother. He too seems to have “the gift” and has no desire to hurt any animals he meets.  When he is made to shoot a squirrel in the woods, he immediately feels remorse and is advised by a parrot named Polly (Har-har) (voiced by Emma Thompson) to follow her. She leads Stubbins with squirrel in tow to the sanctuary. Stubbins is trapped by a security booby trap on the land, and once free, enlists Dolittle’s services to save the little creature.

Appearing on the scene along with Stubbins is Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) who is sent by The Queen of England to reach Dolittle.  The Queen requests that Dolittle come see her as she is very sick and thinks he may be able to help.  Travelling to Buckingham Palace, Dolittle, along with a duck, polar bear, gorilla, ostrich, dog, stick bug, and sugar glider intend to aide the Queen as best they can.  Upon arrival, something is fishy – Pun intended.  A doctor named Mudfly (Michael Sheen) and a dishonest lord, Badgley (Jim Broadbent) seem to be going through the motions, mostly because they seem to be wishing the queen would die.  When Dolittle figures out the cure, a rare fruit from a rarer tree, the good doctor and his menagerie set sail to find the mysterious antidote to cure the queen.

Once the crew embarks on their journey, the movie picks up quite a bit.  They end up having to lose the bad doctor somehow, encounter Rassouli (Antonio Banderas) who has history with Dr. Dolittle and battle a mythic creature who I won’t divulge here.  There is quite a bit going on in the film right from the moment they set sail.

If the setup doesn’t seem terribly ridiculous to you yet, then there may be hope for your enjoyment.  Taking this film as I did, with zero expectations, I was pleasantly surprised by the results of the film in general.  The look and tone of the film are nice and light.  The story is extremely simple to follow and the animal characters are engaging and well voice acted throughout.  Did I mention the voice cast? Rami Malek, Octavia Spencer, Ralph Fiennes, Craig Robinson, Selena Gomez, Tom Holland, John Cena and more make their voices heard and they play quite nicely off one another.

Another standout for me was the special effects. This is a heavy special effects film and lately I’ve noticed that films that rely on effects often do so with effects that aren’t that great. They always seem to take the viewer out of the story and make things less enjoyable.  That wasn’t the case at all here. Effects are often effortless, seamless and blend in wonderfully with their live action counterparts.  The animals look lifelike without falling to the cartoonish-ness of other talking animals in other films.

I’d have to say the weakest link in the film is Robert Downey Jr. The character feels flat, and the Welsh-esque accent he’s trying on in the role is terrible, and even irritating to a fault.  He is the least interesting character at that.  I was quite taken with the Stubbins character and his learning to communicate and help animals was far more involving than whatever Dolittle was going through.  Had they changed the focus of the film to Stubbins on the journey with the help of Dolittle, even retitled the film Stubbins… It may have worked better.

I will go on and say despite my objections to the title character and the storyline being paper thin, that I did enjoy the film overall.  It’s cute, has a few moments that made me laugh, and should be lauded for the effects work.  The voice acting helps a bit as well.  This will be a long-forgotten film in the end, but hopefully some people find enjoyment in it. Kids will certainly like it. Worth a look with some caveats.


  • Encoding: HEVC/H.265
  • Resolution: 4K (2160p)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
  • Layers: BD-66
  • Clarity/Detail: Captured in 8K and finished at 2K, Dolittle comes home with a gorgeous looking transfer. The film is filled with detail.  From the lovely anime-like animation in the opening, to the detailed landscapes of the sanctuary, everything is crystal clear from beginning to end
  • Depth: The film has many moments that put you right in the middle of everything. Chase scenes, sea journeys and trips to palaces are all fleshed out with a nice pop.  Nothing is going to come out of your screen, but you’ll be tickled by the amount of depth in each frame.
  • Black Levels: Blacks are absolutely spot on here. There is no denigration, greying or crush to be seen.
  • Color Reproduction: No matter what HDR format you’re seeing the film in the color palette is warm and gorgeous. The greens at the sanctuary, the palace’s many color elements inside and out and the gorgeous blues of the sea are all remarkable on this disc.  There are so many stand outs for color, that it’s hard to focus on just one. The ocean shots are to my eyes the most gorgeous out of all of the highlights of the color section.
  • Flesh Tones: All flesh tones appear natural and without any odd gradations or anomalies.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Pristine


  • Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus
  • Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
  • Dynamics: From the onset, Dolittle’s Atmos track is one of great quality. The overall sound field is very dynamic right up front. Dialogue sounds great and effects are placed throughout the sound field. For my 5.1.2 setup, I was treated to nice use of surrounds and deep bass.  There aren’t any flat notes in this mix.
  • Height: Height channels are best used during the scenes on the high seas. Waves, underwater adventures and cannonball fire all whiz around you from everywhere. There are moments elsewhere but those are the standouts for me.
  • Low Frequency Extension: The low end is brought in in those essential moments. The soundtrack has some moments of battle that bring a nice rumble to your home.  The score, large animal footfalls and pratfalls all make their bass-y presence known as well.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Surrounds are used throughout the presentation. There is always something in those rear channels, be it ambient noise, off screen dialogue or footsteps. Awesome use of surrounds here.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: Always intelligible, always clear, never a need to adjust the volume. Top notch!


Dolittle comes home in a matte slipcover with embossed lettering. The 4K set ships with a standard Blu-ray and digital code! Special features for this release are of the banal quality that one uses when they know nobody will actually be watching the special features.  They are all presented in 4K SDR on the 4K disc, so that’s a plus…:

  • Talk To The Animals (5:05): Robert Downey Jr. discussing the voice cast
  • RDJ & Harry – Mentor and Mentee (3:30): The actors discuss their on and off screen relationship. Yada Yada Yada…
  • Becoming The Good Doctor (2:54): More from RDJ about his transformation into Dolittle
  • Antonio Banders – Pirate King (2:54): Banderas on his role as Rassouli
  • The Wicked Dr. Mudfly (2:00): Michael Sheen on his Eeeeeviiiillll Docccctooorrrr character.
  • A Most Unusual House (3:58): A feature about the house and some of the practical effects in the house.


Dolittle is yet another film that wasn’t necessary to be created.  There is an aire of lost opportunity here, and there is a very weak performance from Robert Downey Jr. too.  The character of Stubbins is a highlight and the animated animals and their voice counterparts are also quite good.  One does wish that more time had been spent developing this into something better, but as it stands, this is a good one for kids, for fans of great special effects and another outstanding 4K presentation too.  Dolittle is definitely worth a look if you’re a kid or interested in special effects, good 4K discs, or are as forgiving about film shortcomings as I can be at times. Not a total waste, just an incomplete film.

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