Dolittle (PG)Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Tom Holland, Jessie Buckley, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen
Author(s): Dan Gregor, Stephen Gaghan, Chris McKay, Doug Mand
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Release Date: 07/02/2020
Running Time: 101mins
Following the death of his wife, gifted veterinarian Dr John Dolittle becomes a recluse until he is summoned to an audience with Queen Victoria. The monarch has eaten a poisonous variety of nightshade and the only cure is a fruit that grows on a faraway land. Dolittle agrees to embark on an expedition to retrieve the fabled fruit. He is accompanied by a boy called Tommy Stubbins, loyal dog Jip and a menagerie of four-legged and feathered friends.
LondonNet Film Review
Robert Downey Jr talks to creatures great and small but fails to communicate effectively with fellow humans – including us – in a special effects-clogged odyssey inspired by Hugh Lofting’s 1922 book The Voyages Of Doctor Dolittle. Director Stephen Gaghan, who won an Academy Award almost 20 years ago for his adapted screenplay for the gritty thriller Traffic, searches in vain for animal magic as he shepherds a fitfully fantastical caper from the streets of Victorian London to far-flung island locales…
En route, Antonio Banderas buckles a swash as a salty seadog, who appears to have been shipwrecked from the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, and Michael Sheen barely registers as Dolittle’s scheming rival, who is dismissed as a “chinless wonder” by the eponymous medic. Downey Jr walks the same plank of intentional weirdness as Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow by adopting a strangulated Welsh accent, which varies in thickness from one scene to the next. It’s a perplexing creative choice by the Iron Man star with no dramatic payoff.
Humour misses the mark with alarming frequency and a climactic comic set-piece involves the doctor forcibly unclogging a creature’s swollen bowels. He inhales a gale-force blast of flatulence as a reward. Regrettably, it’s not the only thing that stinks. Following the death of his adventurer wife (Kasia Smutniak), gifted veterinarian Dr John Dolittle (Downey Jr) closes the doors to his animal hospital. He becomes a recluse, surrounded by a menagerie of chums including bespectacled lurcher Jip (voiced by Tom Holland), wise macaw Polynesia (Dame Emma Thompson), self-doubting gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena) and ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani).
The unexpected intrusion of a boy called Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) coincides with an urgent summons to Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) has been poisoned with a pernicious variety of nightshade and the only remedy is the fruit of the mythical Eden tree. Dolittle and fledgling apprentice Tommy head to an isle of bandits and thieves ruled by King Rassouli (Banderas), with fierce rival Dr Blair Mudfly (Sheen) in hot pursuit. Alas, an ill wind blows through the expedition and Dolittle fears his gallant efforts will be in vain. “I can sniff defeat like a truffle pig,” he snorts.
Dolittle does little to engage family audiences, interspersing a haphazard storyline with digitally rendered critters including a vengeful tiger (Ralph Fiennes) and paranoid squirrel (Craig Robinson). Downey Jr doesn’t lay claim to a single laugh in 101 minutes while Nanjiani fares slightly better as the self-loathing ostrich, who opines: “My father was right about me. He said I should have been an omelette.” Every time his flightless bird buries his head in the sand, we contemplate joining him.
– Sam Cannon
London Cinemas Showing Dolittle
From: Friday 9th April
To: Thursday 15th April
From: Friday 16th April
To: Thursday 22nd April
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