When Robert Downey Jr. hung up his beloved and fan-favorite Iron Man suit with Avengers: Endgame last year, fans were heartbroken over the sad fact that there will be no seeing their favorite superhero anymore. But news of the actor donning the whimsical character of the old favorite Dr. Dolittle raised the hopes of many (ours included) at the prospect of watching him in a lighthearted fantasy-fiction. But sadly, it strictly adheres to the guidelines of films worthy of being part of the January dumping ground of Hollywood.
All Dolittle can be pegged as is a rather awful choice for an actor of Robert Downey Jr.’s caliber who is going to be remembered for eons for playing the iconic character of Iron Man a.k.a. Playboy, philanthropist, and superhero Tony Stark. He should be glad that the mark Iron Man left behind in millions of hearts is too deep and memorable to be tarnished by a dull and thinly written film like Dolittle. Many won’t know, but the original “Dr. Dolittle”, a 1967 musical starring Rex Harrison, was a colossal flop and its 1998 remake starring Eddie Murphy performed somewhat okayish. But even with their barely-there performances, both can be called better than this 2020 fiasco.
So, Dolittle starts with a heartbroken Dr. Dolittle who has been living the life of a recluse since his beloved wife, Lily, a fellow adventurer, died in a shipwreck. He now lives in an animal sanctuary, protected by ivied gates, situated in the center of England. His surly solitude is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger –Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), a sensitive boy who arrives with a feisty squirrel (Craig Robinson) who is injured. But that’s all Collett is for and oh, to be the voice of admiration when Dolittle talks and understands the animals around him. No efforts were wasted in trying to explain how or when he landed upon this nifty little superpower.
His dull life is given a spark of adventure when a royal emissary (Carmel Laniado) shows up as the doctor’s presence is requested at Buckingham Palace- Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) is comatose and is nearing an untimely death as she has been poisoned.
This pushed Dolittle to embark on a perilous voyage to find a cure that resides on a mysterious and dangerous island. So, along with Tommy and his gang of animals, he sets out to find the antidote. What follows next is a blur of computer-generated action, sprinkled with the presence of a familiar (and famous) faces. Dolittle encounter Lily’s father, played by the recently Oscar-nominated Antonio Banderas who plays a villainous pirate king also seeking the antidote. He is accompanied by the evil Dr. Mudfly (Michael Sheen who is perhaps the only saving grace in the 101-minute film). Dolittle faces many obstacles, both poor CGI-generated and human, as he races (more like crawls) to get the cure.
We would have loved to say that Dolittle would do well with a younger audience, but that would be an unforgivable lie. Even Robert Downey Jr., who produced and starred in the title role, looked well aware of the disaster he had picked post the Marvel wonder projects and ensured that it ended up being the train wreck it deserves to be with his oddly changing accents.
The presence of the voices of many known and renowned actors does little to alleviate the dull and lame plot. We have a nervous and cowardly gorilla voiced by Rami Malek, a glass-wearing dog (Tom Holland), a, always chilly polar bear (John Cena), and a sage parrot Poly who also acts as the plot narrator (Emma Thompson), Craig Robinson (squirrel), and Kumail Nanjiani (ostrich). But despite all this and obviously the money involved in CGI-ing the shit out to create this mad gaggle of animals, it ends up being a waste of our time and Robert Downey Jr.’s money plus acting skills, which strangely missing in the film.