Movie review: Dolittle

23 Jan 2020 / 16:47 H.

Robert Downey Jr could have had his pick of any project after the stupendous success of the Avengers movies.

Unfortunately, his first movie post-Avengers: Endgame is this less-than-stellar adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s Dr Dolittle series of books (the first one was published in 1920).

He is also the movie’s executive producer, so he gets double the blame.

To make matters worse, this version doesn’t stand up well against the more contemporary adaptations of the books, namely Dr. Dolittle (1998) and its sequel, starring Eddie Murphy as a very endearing veterinarian who talks to animals.

Dolittle begins with how our protagonist became famous due to his ability to talk to animals. Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) herself was so amazed by his abilities that she presented him a vast estate to house the animals under his care.

However when his beloved adventurous wife Lisa (Kasia Smutniak ) dies at sea, Dolittle withdraws from society, preferring only the company of animals.

All that changes when Queen Victoria falls gravely ill and Dolittle realises that unless he saves her, he and his beloved animals will be homeless.

At the palace, Dolittle (with the help of his dog) finds out that the Queen has been poisoned, and the only cure can be found on the mythical island that his wife was trying to find before she died.

So off he goes on a ship with his animal friends and self-appointed apprentice Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) to find the cure. However his nemesis Dr Mudfly (Michael Sheen) is in hot pursuit on a battleship, with orders to kill.

To complicate the plot, Dolittle and his crew must find a book (with a map) written by Lisa that is being kept by his old enemy (a barely recognisable Antonio Banderas) on an island inhabited by pirates and thieves.

At about one-and-a-half hours long, the movie is thankfully short but lacks heart. There are no warm fuzzy moments, the dialogue sounds like it came from this century rather than Victorian England, and some jokes just fall flat.

The movie has many famous names providing the voices of the animal characters, but only Emma Thompson (her parrot is the narrator and Dolittle’s voice of reason) and Rami Malik as a neurotic gorilla are recognisable.

This is one of those movies that could have been so much better. We all expected more from Downey, but unfortunately his Dolittle is not very likeable.

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