Verdict: This light and cheerful adaptation is worth the journey.
After bringing a conclusion to his legendary run as the MCU’s Iron Man spanning over a decade, Robert Downey Jr. has now stepped into the shoes of another popular character. The latest adaptation of Hugh Lofting’s famous children’s book The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Dolittle brings the famed veterinarian who speaks to animals back on the big screen. Previously played by Rex Harrison and Eddie Murphy, this adaptation will see RDJ in the titular role along with a stellar voice cast directed by Stephen Gaghan.
What’s Dolittle About:
The eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) is a famed Victorian England veterinarian who has the special gift of talking to animals. Several years after the death of his beloved wife, he is currently a recluse holed up at the Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of animals for company. However, all of that is about to change once Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) enter his estate looking for a favor from the famed doctor. The Lady brings with her the news that her majesty Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) has fallen gravely ill and Doctor Dolittle is her only hope for survival while Stubbins is looking for help to heal a squirrel that he mistakenly injured. Soon, Dr. Dolittle finds himself heading on an adventurous journey to a mythical island to look for a magical cure accompanied by his animal friends and Stubbins as his eager young apprentice.
The charm of this new Dolittle adaptation lies entirely in the upbeat and undemanding plot with its bright and cheerful tone. It is the kind of film that’s made for kids with an entertaining compilation of peculiar characters, colorful visuals, lots of punchlines and a fun musical score.
Led by Robert Downey Jr., Dolittle’s cast is no doubt an exciting mix of acclaimed actors that make the film worth a watch. RDJ as Dolittle and Emma Thompson as the parrot Polly handle most of the emotional weight of the film while the rest of the cast forms an amusing group of animal companions. The fun duo of John Cena as polar bear Yoshi and Kumail Nanjiani as ostrich Plimpton along with Rami Malek as the anxious gorilla Chee-Chee and are especially entertaining in the voice cast. Michael Sheen is also a treat as the nefarious Dr. Mudfly. Jason Mantzoukas as a deranged dragonfly and Antonio Banderas as King Rassouli stand out the most with spectacular performances.
What Could’ve Been Better:
Although Robert Downey Jr. puts on a rather convincing Welsh accent as Dr. Dolittle, his dialogue is distractingly pieced together. Most of his lines had to be re-recorded during the making of the film and it shows. In fact, with a runtime of just over an hour and a half, a lot of the film seems to have been tinkered with at the editing table. Characters arcs, subplots, and even some stunning locations don’t seem to get their due.
Why You Should Watch:
Despite its shortcomings, Dolittle makes for a quick treat that is perfectly catered to children. It’s got everything needed to keep the little ones entertained with eccentric characters, colorful visuals, and one fun adventure.