For Dolittle to appear as it does on screen, at some point, somewhere, someone had to write some variation of the words “and then Robert Downey Jr shoves his hand into the dragon’s anus.” It couldn’t have been “the dragon’s booty,” because wordplay about horded treasure would be offensively clever compared with the rest of the script. Then people took those words and used millions of dollars in technology to computer generate Iron Man pulling objects out of a dragon’s asshole.
This is who we are as people now. We are people who spend Jeff Bezos yacht money on animating animal anal play and present it to children. Whether or not you think Dolittle is actually a movie for children depends on one question: Do you hate children? If so, then yes!
Setting aside the far more entertaining, but totally horrifying, stories about the film’s troubled production, the final product is just the most predictably boring kind of bad. Sure, Cats is going to lose Hollywood the equivalent of an industrialized nation’s GDP, but at least some people were sexually confused by it! The most confounding aspect of Dolittle is trying to decide if RDJ really did his own postproduction voice over or if some rando was pulled in off the street to whisper an accent “inspired” by the general concept of the United Kingdom.
Although clearly envisioned as a madcap, free-spirited weirdo, RDJ’s Dolittle is more Willy Won’tka than magically enigmatic. A lazy animated introduction quickly establishes:
- Dolittle can talk to animals.
- He’s very sad about his super dead wife.
- He’s become a recluse, living in an enclosed habitat with animal friends.
Nothing says “madcap, free-spirited weirdo” like neglecting personal hygiene and developing emotional fragility thanks to soul-crushing depression. Remember how we were introduced to Willy Wonka by seeing his only child burn slowly in a fire he accidentally caused? No? That’s because that would have been a terrible way to introduce him.
Anyway, the plot contrivance is that Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) has been poisoned and only Dr Dolittle knows where to find the cure. He and his menagerie of animals, voiced by at least five people who have been nominated for or won Oscars, must steal a journal from Antonio Banderas, outrun Michael Sheen, and thwart the plans of Jim Broadbent. No, those actors aren’t playing themselves. Yes, it would have been better if they did.
The dumbest thing about the movie—other than its reductive categories for the only three women in it: princess, comatose queen, and dead—is its smothering of RDJ’s charisma. How do you make that guy annoying and boring? Was he CGI? That would explain the voice that didn’t sound like him… Has anyone seen RDJ recently? Do we have proof of life?
Dolittle was never going to be a critically lauded opus, but thoughtful use of a cast this good could have probably given the world something better than this. It’s not even the best bad heavily-CGI talking animal movie released by Universal studios in the last 5 weeks. Hollywood may have ruined animals forever. Happy 2020.
Grade = F