Dr John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) is a physician who has learnt to speak to animals. After his wife passes away, the good Doctor decides to go into hiding from the world, keeping his hurt and suffering to himself. Suddenly he hears that Queen Victoria is extremely unwell and it seems that only Dr Dolittle can save her.
Acting quickly, Dolittle discovers that the only thing that can cure the Queen is a fruit located on a mysterious island which can only be reached by sea. Reluctantly, Dr Dolittle eventually accepts the mission to retrieve this fruit, feeling as though this is his second chance to save a life. But don’t worry, he won’t be going alone. Joining him on the perilous journey across the seas is his crew of talking animals. Can the Doctor find the secret medicine and save the Queen’s life?
In case you’re not aware, this film has no connection to the 1998 or 2001 Dr Dolittle films which starred Eddie Murphy. Dolittle (2020) serves as a reboot. As a plot, it’s obvious this film is attempting to stay true to the stories about Dr Dolittle travelling around the world in a big ship, helping many animals along the way. Dr Dolittle wasn’t just a vet working in an office building. He was a man who sailed the sea (Or at least that’s the story my mother used to read to me at bedtime when I was a child). While the plot is basic, some younger audiences might be frightened by certain scenes. I struggled with the plot- childish one minute, then filled with dark tones the next. It’s almost like a hot mess of genres and styles all mixed into one.
In regards to the humour in Dolittle, the jokes here are cheesy and sometimes extremely childish. It’s obvious this film is aiming to be nothing more than a fun, brainless family film. While the humour may not be my taste, I promise you that there will be many who will smile and chuckle while watching this film.
While I am rather forgiving regarding the type of humour and the basic plot, I struggle to be just as forgiving to Robert Downey Jr’s performance in this film, particularly his accent. The accent alone is off-putting and distracting (I’m sorry, but I’m just honest here). I don’t necessarily hate his performance- I just feel sorry for him and whoever directed the actor to perform the character this way as it just doesn’t work. Granted this film would have been a nice change for the actor considering how much of his life has previously been spent as Tony Stark aka Iron Man. But as a character, I just didn’t care much for Dr Dolittle. His introduction is weak and silly, and the film misses so many opportunities to give us a proper introduction to the character. Spending the time on this kind of introduction could have helped make him a more likeable presence.
Overall, Dolittle is a brainless movie made for young kids and family movie nights, even though some scenes are slightly dark and scary. This movie and the type of comedy isn’t appealing to me, nor would I ever re-watch it in the future. While Robert Downey Jr commits 100% and provides a very different take on Dr Dolittle to what we’ve seen previously, his character on screen is very off-putting and his accent is distracting. Dolittle as a character isn’t too likeable either due to the film’s set up and introduction.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden