“Dolittle” is directed by Stephen Gaghan, who previously directed 2005’s “Syriana” & 2016’s “Gold”. The film stars Robert Downey Jr., Michael Sheen, Harry Collett & Antonio Banderas in live action roles and has slew of voice over actors including Tom Holland, John Cena, Rami Malek, Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Ralph Fiennes, Craig Robinson, Selena Gomez & Marion Cotillard. The film is based on the character from Hugh Lofting and “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle”. The film also serves as a reboot of the 1967 original film. In 1998, another film was made starring Eddie Murphy but that took the titular character on a modern comedic adventure rather than following the novel.
After the death of his beloved wife, Lily, Dr. John Dolittle (Downey Jr.) secludes himself from the world with his animals. After a young boy (Collett) accidentally shoots a squirrel, he comes across Dolittle’s estate and ask to help. At the same time, the Queen of England has sent her advisor to meet Dolittle and ask him to please help her as the Queen has contracted a mysterious illness. With the ability to talk to animals, Dolittle is hesitant but accepts the offer and goes to London to help after some persuasion from Polynesia, a macaw (Thompson). Dolittle realizes that in order to save the Queen he must find a mysterious fruit on an undiscovered island. The young boy joins Dolittle along with his group wild and wacky animals including Chee-Chee, the gorilla (Malek), Yoshi, the polar bear (Cena), Plimpton, the ostrich (Nanjiani), Dab-Dab, the duck (Spencer) & Jip, the dog (Holland). Together, they must travel across the seas in search this island while evading the nefarious Dr. Mudfly (Sheen) as well as the Pirate King, Rassouli (Banderas) who is also the father of Dolittle’s wife & hold him responsible for her death.
Based on the trailer, I thought this was going to be like a “Jungle Book” meets “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Almost like fantasy adventure take on the titular character. However, this film took a massive nose dive in storytelling and was very disappointing. Robert Downey Jr.’s first outing following his departure from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is down grade despite being a very actor. There are moments of brilliance from Downey & Banderas but there don’t carry the enough. I understand the target audience was children and my kids did enjoy the movie but adults may not. Michael Sheen over the top performance as the villain is laughable, very cliché and cheeky. The voice over cast are great, not “Jungle Book” or “Mowgli” great but good enough to make the target audience laugh.
Overall, this movie had great visuals and voice over cast and animations. Where the movie falls apart is the storytelling and the acting. Downey, Banderas & Sheen are great actors, have done better and should’ve been better. Gaghan’s direction is off because the visuals and fantasy aspects. He can tell a great story without the visuals but here due to the subject matter & target audience, his directing comes off as choppy and at times dragging with some scenes.