REVIEWED BY Ashwini Vethakan
Definitely not what the doctor ordered!
REVIEWED BY Ashwini Vethakan
First published in the early 1920s as a children’s book, ‘The Story of Doctor Dolittle’ has taken many forms of movie adaptations with perhaps the most popular being that of Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of the wonderful doctor.
However, the latest 2020 revival is sadly not one for the books. Sure, children will like it enough but as an adult, it is like taking a spoonful of some nasty medicinal concoction your doctor forced you to drink!
Let’s break it down so you get a clearer picture. Robert Downey Jr., who – before he played the role of Tony Stark – was one of our most fearless untethered actors, fumbles through the film and expends most of his energy trying to decide on an accent for his character. I don’t blame him though, because when you follow the script, you don’t quite understand which part of the United Kingdom is being narrated to us.
He lands a vaguely Irish or maybe Scottish accent (in a pathetic attempt at a Jack Sparrow of sorts) that was apparently dubbed in during post-production, which gives one the impression that he was still figuring it out while filming (poor Tony!).
Now that we have our protagonist out of the way, let’s see what else was very, very off about the movie. Writing wise, I would love to ques-tion the film’s director and co-writers Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor and Doug Mand, to find out which plot they wanted to work on.
Was it the message of learning to move on after the death of someone special or simply friendship? There were so many mini-plots within the film, none of which were executed to the end. Conversations between characters that weren’t really necessary took screen time that could other-wise have been used for anything else (I emphasise the word ‘anything’).
The storyline is fairly standard for a family friendly action adventure movie: the heroes must retrieve a magical item in order to save the day and their journey will take them to fantastical locations.
In the case of Dolittle however, there are really only a few such locations and there’s nothing particularly magical about any of them (aside from the various creatures).
This ultimately prevents Dolittle from feeling like the epic fantasy adventure movie it so clearly wants to be.
Michael Sheen plays a villain from hell (and I don’t mean this as a compliment). Then again, I didn’t expect too much from him after his pain-ful performance in the Twilight franchise. Still, he’s the character from whom I think the adults will most likely get a laugh or two.
The voice cast for the animals is a star-studded award--winning ensemble with the likes of Dame Emma Thompson, Tom Holland, John Cena, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard and Rami Malek! And this was probably the only thing that excited me throughout the movie – figuring out which star voiced which animal!
All in all, while Dolittle may have been intended as a start of a new franchise for Downey Jr., there’s not much here to compel viewers to clamour for another instalment. It’s fun enough
to keep audiences mostly entertained but there’s nothing particularly memorable to latch on to – not the CGI animals, fantasy world or even Downey Jr.’s performance, which for me was the hardest pill to swallow.