It’s easy to understand why folks once thought a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle would have all the potential in the world, but unfortunately the end result is a near total bust. In the Stephen Gaghan-directed movie, Downey Jr.’s Dr. John Dolittle is still devastated by the death of his wife. Ever since her passing seven years ago, he’s completely shut himself off from the outside world with his only company being the animals that live in Dolittle Manor. However, when Dolittle gets word that the Queen (Jessie Buckley) is in desperate need of help to find a cure for her mysterious illness, he agrees to set sail in search of a mythical island that could hold the answers.
There’s a lot wrong with Dolittle but one of the most shocking of the bunch is that Downey Jr.’s performance doesn’t work at all. One might expect him to be well suited for the role of a lovable jerk, but there’s next to no charm in his rendition of the character, leaving Dolittle with no anchor. Some of the voice actors manage to make an impression with their animal characters, namely Rami Malek as the gorilla Chee-Chee and Emma Thompson as the macaw Poly, but no one comes anywhere close to filling the void left by a lead who isn’t enjoyable to watch and doesn’t do much to draw a viewer in.
Another especially egregious flaw in Dolittle is the editing. Making trims for pacing purposes is one thing, but this comes across as a sloppy job with few successful scene transitions and a whole bunch of moments that are missing key shots in order to sensibly get characters from one place to another. Making matters worse, even with the queen withering away, there’s absolutely no sense of urgency to this madcap, often nonsensical mishmosh of playful hijinx and characters suffering from unearned, weighty dilemmas. And worst of all, it’s just no fun.
If you want more of our thoughts on Dolittle, check out the video review I did with Dorian Parks at the top of this article!