Dolittle Takes Us Up and Down, But Is Just Meh All Around (Movie Review)

Dolittle ReviewCorrect me if I’m wrong, but I believe that the last time we saw the character of  Dr. Dolittle was in Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), played by the one and only Eddie Murphy. I remember the Dr. Dolittle movies being fun, hilarious, and an overall good time. My friend from out of town, who had the privilege of joining me at the screening, felt those same positive feelings about the Dr. Dolittle franchise as well. My friend reflected so heavily on the Dr. Dolittle franchise with Eddie Murphy that when we saw a preview for Dolittle (2020), a day before the screening, he was surprised to see Robert Downey Jr. as the iconic doctor. Needless to say my friend was painfully unaware of this film’s existence. As for myself, I knew we had a new rendition of the doc, but I have to admit I was unsure of what they were going to do with the film this time around. Well after taking a glimpse at the preview and viewing the film itself, it seems as if the franchise has taken quite the interesting turn, but not for the better.

Dolittle (2020) is an adventure/comedy/family film written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, writer of Syriana (2005), Traffic (2000), and the director of Gold (2016). The film is also written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, writers of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (2016-2019) and How I Met Your Mother (2011-2014). The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Harry Collett, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes,  and Selena Gomez. Quite the packed cast; with the majority of them lending their voices to the CG animal characters on screen. The film is produced by  Susan Downey, RDJ’s wife, producer of Sherlock Holmes (2009), Book of Eli (2010), and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005), Jeff Kirschenbaum, producer of xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017) and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019), and lastly Joe Roth, producer of The Great Debaters (2007), Maleficent (2014), and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). Dolittle (2020) is not a bad looking film. However its not the look of the film as much as it is the substance that is the problem here.

Dolittle Movie Review

As mentioned before my friend and I are most familiar with the Eddie Murphy version of the Dr. Dolittle character. Despite Murphy’s version of the character being a household name for many of us the Eddie Murphy version is actually a reincarnation of the original Dr. Dolittle character. This is nothing new when it comes to adaptions these days, but still somewhat surprising. The late Hugh Lofting, (1886-1947), creator of Dr. Dolittle and writer of the character’s novels,  originally had Dr. Dolittle as a top-hat-wearing, adventuring Englishman with the gift for gab among all sorts of animals and fantastical creatures. It was 20 years after the death of Lofting that an adaptation of his novels came to the big screen with Dr. Dolittle (1967). From watching the trailer, we see the film depicts the courageous and thrilling content of Lofting’s novels. After learning this tid bit of information I can see what Dolittle (2020) was attempting to do. I applaud them for being closer to the source material than the Eddie Murphy Dr. Dolittle films, but this film was a far cry from what it could have been. Dare I go on? Yes.

The film starts off with an awesome animated sequence, which I did enjoy quite a bit! The sequence is fun and creative as it shows Dr. Dolittle (Downey Jr.) in his prime doing what he does best… adventuring with his band of merry animals. However when tragedy strikes Dolittle locks himself, and his animal companions, away in his lavish home, never to return to the human world again. The only thing that stirs Dolittle is an urgent message from the queen that leads us on quite the journey of a film… or it would have been if there were more excitement! I think that Dolittle (2020) had some interesting and creative aspects going for it. I don’t want to give away too much but I’m sure the trailers have done a great job at telling us everything that happens in the film. The setup is there; I like what they are doing with the animals and the world of Dr. Dolittle… though some of the dialogue is a little dated and falls flat. I think that the main issue Dolittle (2020) runs into is that the film lingers. The film stays in certain moments longer than it should. The energy that some sequences start out with end up dissipating because some sort of cringy dialogue or kiddish behavior that will go on for a bit too long. The only redeeming factor for these sequences being drawn out is when they end with heartfelt messages and good takeaways, but there are way too many instances like this.

So what do we end up with? We end up with a film that had so much potential that it hurts! I liked some parts of Dolittle (2020), but not enough to be a winner for me. The target audience for the film was met, but the film didn’t wow us with a true adventure. I can’t recommend this film on heartfelt moments alone, but it can be enjoyed in the comfort of your home when it comes on video. I just wish that with all that open space the film offers that it would be more entertaining and not just good and funny in very few parts.

Dolittle Review

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