I have a theory that everyone loves a movie about talking animals. Even if the story or human characters are lacklustre, at the very least you can be entertained by the gorgeous animals, whether they be real or CGI. Of course, it’s always fun to attempt to decipher which celebrity lends their voice to which animal. Thankfully for “Dolittle,” its delightful voice cast and decent effects distract from just how mediocre the movie is.
Primarily based on the book, “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle,” “Dolittle” follows the eponymous doctor as he sets out on a perilous quest to retrieve a rare fruit with the power to heal an ailing Queen Victoria. Joining Dolittle on his adventure are Stubbins, his young apprentice, and a menagerie of quirky animal sidekicks.
“Dolittle” is not destined to become a re-watchable classic. There are certainly far worse family movies out there that you could suffer through and to its credit, there are a few sparse moments of genuine hilarity hidden in the movie’s mostly bland majority. “Dolittle” comes off as bland simply because of how basic it is. The story is a straightforward adventure without any real stakes or captivating action and the humour, while at times managed to make both adults and children laugh, feels as though it’s trying to be simultaneously very broad and very specific. It’s unclear exactly what audience “Dolittle” is meant for. The movie is just entertaining and colourful enough that children will love it, but anyone old enough to have a child may decide to take a nap halfway through.
In his first non-Iron Man role since 2014’s “The Judge,” Robert Downey Jr. stars as Dr. Dolittle. The normally charismatic actor seems lost. Speaking in a perplexing English(?) accent, it’s clear that Downey is phoning this one in. He’s decidedly low-energy throughout the movie and fails to make the character worth caring about. One-dimensional and annoyingly zany, it’s unfortunate that Downey gets lost in this mess of a movie. Thankfully, the all-star voice cast more than makes up for Downey’s missteps. Featuring everyone from Kumail Nanjiani, to Octavia Spencer, to Tom Holland, to Rami Malek, the famous voices behind the charming animals are the saving grace of “Dolittle.” They inject the dull film with just enough cuteness and wacky antics that it makes “Dolittle” watchable. Watchable, but far from successful.
If you have a burning desire to see “Dolitle,” do yourself a favour and wait until it lands on Netflix. Though the voyage of Dr. Dolittle is made bearable by its engaging voice cast, the movie as a whole isn’t worth heading to theatres for.
Universal Pictures releases Dolittle in theatres on Friday, January 17, 2020
[Review by Luke Elisio]