‘Dolittle’ takes the fun out of adventure


Director Stephen Gaghan’s “Dolittle” does not look like a $175 million production, but unfortunately, that’s how much it costs to create a movie not worth anyone’s time. 

The feature film is categorized as a fantasy, adventure story, and that rings true to a point. The story follows Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), the famed physician who can speak to animals, as he tries to find a cure for the ailing Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). Along for the ride are Dolittle’s trusted animal pals voiced by a star-studded cast as well as a brand new human friend called Stubbins (Harry Collett). Of course, no adventure would be complete without an archetypal villain dressed in all black, so that’s where Dr. Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen), Dolittle’s jealous peer, steps in.

Although “Dolittle” is a textbook adventure film and checks off all the boxes, it fails to actually bring a sense of adventure. There are stakes, but they’re not high enough. Sure, Dolittle sets sail to find a cure, but there’s nothing truly exciting about it. 

Furthermore, there’s not enough character depth to make the story worth investing in emotionally. The only thing deep about this movie is the ocean they sail across. Characters, on the other hand, are as shallow as a piece of paper. Dolittle has to learn to get along with humans again after the death of his wife, Stubbins tries to find acceptance with the animals after being rejected from his family, and Müdfly works to stop them both because he wishes he had Dolittle’s successes. 

There’s nothing more to the characters besides their one goal and their simple backstory. If the writers couldn’t invest more into developing these characters, there is no reason an audience should. While the writers failed to add any substantial character depth, the editors made things worse by adding in more shots than needed. There are montages that feel unnecessary, out of order and out of place. There are multiple map shots and one moment where Downey puts on a hat for no particular reason. These scenes simply add to the film’s runtime, making the movie longer than it needed to be.

Downey’s acting in the film would be a silver lining in this treasure trove of gilded metals, but the costuming department did enough damage to distract from his performance. In the opening scene, Dolittle looks rugged after his years away from humans. However, the locks of hair pasted to Downey’s head and face look like a wig from a costume store instead of anything professional. When costuming wasn’t ruining Downey’s face, they spent their time hurting the film with continuity errors on Stubbins’s face. 

The only thing this movie did well was leaving real animals out of it. Any animal character was computer-generated at a high enough level to where animals could interact with each other and with humans in the film. 

At the bare minimum, this film is kid-friendly, and it seems to only be friendly to kids for that matter. Moviegoers above the age of five might find enjoyment practically anywhere else. Universal knows how to produce action movies. It’s a shame they couldn’t get their act together for this one. 

Rating: 1 out of 5

Dolittle’ is a film for five-year-olds. Anyone older will want to pull out their hair for 101 minutes. (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures) https://www.universalpictures.com/movies/dolittle

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