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With Robert Downey Jr.’s time as Tony Stark in the MCU finally at an end (Probably... okay, maybe), the actor can finally lend his star power to fare outside of the superhero genre. And before the actor potentially returns to Baker Street for Sherlock Holmes 3, he’s taking on another classic character who has had multiple cinematic adaptations in this weekend’s Dolittle.
Unlike the modern interpretation of the character seen in the Eddie Murphy films, director Stephen Gaghan’s Dolittle returns the character to his literary roots in Victorian England. The film follows Robert Downey Jr.’s Dr. John Dolittle, a doctor, veterinarian and widower, as he sets forth on an adventure to find a cure for the ailing Queen Victoria, played by the amazing Jessie Buckley. On his quest, Dr. Dolittle is joined by a cadre of animals voiced by a star-studded cast of actors. So, how is it?
The first reviews for Dolittle are now up, and despite the star-studded cast and the sheen of impressive visual effects, the film doesn't quite live up to what you would hope for from it. CinemaBlend's own Dirk Libbey gave Dolittle 2.5 out of 5 stars in his review, writing:
Dolittle isn't a terrible movie, it's just not an impressive one. It doesn't feel like a waste of time, but perhaps only because it doesn't ask too much. It clearly wanted to be something bigger, and it's simply disappointing that it wasn't.
So Dirk didn't hate Dolittle, but it sounds like he was pretty bummed that a concept that could have been grand, given the modern technology and talent involved, turned out to fall well short of any perceived potential. This sentiment was echoed by The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. He said in his review:
No doctor can cure what ails this Dolittle...It virtually goes without saying that the technical work is impeccable and flawless; if only as much meticulous work had gone into the storytelling and script.
The script may have been lacking to begin with, but judging by many of the reviews, it might have been chucked out the window entirely with Dolittle really coming together in the edit bay. In his review, Screen Crush's Matt Singer called the film:
An unpleasant, incoherent mess that feels like it was stitched together from outtakes and reshoots of something that used to look totally different.
With a short runtime and what is apparently some rather choppy editing, it seems that Dolittle doesn't make a ton of sense at certain points. The belief that Dolittle is the result of some serious tinkering appears to be prevalent among critics. As evidence of this, many critics are pointing to Robert Downey Jr.'s dialogue as Doctor Dolittle. The Ringer's Rob Harvilla highlighted it in his review, saying:
All his dialogue sounds dubbed; most of it is quite difficult to make out. Maybe wait until you can watch this movie with subtitles.
I think many audience members would be excited to check out Dolittle just to see Robert Downey Jr.'s performance, and sadly, it seems that that performance is not what you might have hoped for. The actor apparently affects a strange and difficult to understand accent. On top of that, many critics suspect that the majority of his dialogue in the film was done in ADR. I've also seen Johnny Depp/Captain Jack Sparrow comparisons made, and not in a good way.
Another thing prevalent in the reviews so far is just how juvenile the comedy is in Dolittle. Variety's Courtney Howard wrote:
What should have been an awe-filled adventure quickly curdles into an awful one, thanks to a pedestrian formula and the filmmakers’ fixation on fart jokes.
While Dolittle sports a PG rating, indicating that it could be fun for the whole family, based on the early reviews, it is only the very little ones who will be laughing, while older viewers will have to simply get through it all. Although, Dolittle being for kids also may depend on your parenting style, as Birth.Movies.Death.'s Michael Gingold highlights in his review hilariously titled "Robert's Downer For Juniors":
So if you feel that the right choice for your little ones is a film that (SPOILER ALERT?) climaxes with its protagonist pulling armor and other human detritus out of a dragon’s asshole, have at it.
And lastly, we have the Chicago Sun Times' Richard Roeper, who gave the film one star out of four and wrote:
We have the first serious contender for Wasted Opportunity of the Decade.
As you can see, there's not a lot of positivity coming Dolittle's way, and the film currently sits at 17% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 35 reviews. On the bright side, it seems that this weekend's Bad Boys For Life is actually good! But if you have little ones that are too young for that, Dolittle may offer a breezy and entertaining (for them) time at the movies.
Dolittle opens on January 17. Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see what other movies you can look forward to this year.