With Robert Downey Jr. officially moving on from the character of Iron Man following “Avengers: Endgame,” audiences had a lot of questions regarding what direction his career would go. Would he continue to chase big budget popular franchises, or would he choose to go in a smaller, more artistic direction?
While it still may be too soon to actually answer that question, “Dolittle” marks his first post-Marvel film, and it sees him taking on the role of Dr. John Dolittle, an eccentric doctor who can talk to animals, in a quirky adventure film targeted at children.
It’s no secret “Dolittle” hasn’t been getting the best response. The film currently holds an 18% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and its lackluster performance at the box office — it only pulled in around $22 million in its opening weekend — spells what could be a $100 million loss for Universal Pictures.
But what about the actual film is so detestable? Is it really that bad? Well, if I’m being honest, no, it’s not.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of truly dumb and ridiculous moments in this film, and I’m still not sure I’d say this is a good movie, but “Dolittle” is not the abomination that it’s being made out to be.
There is a massive gap between what “Dolittle” tries to do and what actually happens on screen.
It's apparent that everyone involved in the making of this film has the best of intentions. They are attempting to make the next major franchise for kids around the globe to enjoy. The film tries to provide fun and entertaining characters and situations that, while not award winning, will hopefully provide a genuinely enjoyable experience at the movies. It’s precisely because of these intentions and how they’re able to shine through all of the bad aspects of the film that I believe a lot of children and their families will really enjoy “Dolittle.”
However, why a studio needed to spend $175 million on a film that’s just meant to be a decently fun time for kids is beyond me. The budget for this film is out of control, and the worst part is that the visual effects aren’t even that great. The decent-at-best VFX makes this look like a film that should have only cost around $50 million at the maximum. Where the other $125 million went is a mystery that will most likely never be solved and will probably cost a lot of people their jobs.
So what is it about the film that doesn’t work?
Well, chiefly it’s the humor and laziness of the script. The humor is the same kind of cheap toilet humor that you’d expect out of any generic children’s movie. It’s full of various cheeky and immature jokes that really do nothing but accentuate the film’s lack of creativity.
There’s also Downey’s performance. I’m not sure who thought his strange accent in this film was a good idea, but it wasn’t. It was just bizarre and extremely distracting. It was incredibly inconsistent and it was never apparent where his accent was from, even though his adventure takes him to his home. In addition, it felt as if almost every line of his was re-recorded and dubbed over in post-production — which is frustrating because that means that the filmmakers had the opportunity to fix this mistake, but instead they just doubled down on it.
“Dolittle” features a stacked cast of popular actors and actresses that provide voices for the animals that Doctor Dolittle talks to, but they’re all given basically nothing to do. Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez are all pretty much entirely wasted in this film.
Despite its glaring issues, I still am hesitant to be too harsh on “Dolittle.” Though it’s an incredibly messy and misguided film, it is a well-intentioned attempt at providing an enjoyable film to put a smile on children’s faces. Is it a film that will be memorable in any way? No, not really, but it’s not the absolute trainwreck that it would appear to be on its surface.