Entertainment » Movies


by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Mar 24, 2020

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Imagine being the biggest household name in the biggest franchise on the planet, finally reaching the end of a contract that made you more money than you can dream of, and then deciding to make "Dolittle."

It is because of this reality that I extend a genuine "What the fuck?" toward Robert Downey Jr., a man who had a world of options at his disposal after finally being freed from playing Iron Man for over a decade, and chose a movie where a gorilla kicks a tiger in the balls. It's like winning the lottery, then using your winnings to invest in a manure business. But there's no telling quite yet if this shit will actually be profitable.

It probably will be, and that's perhaps the saddest thing about "Dolittle," a movie that lifts mediocrity to new heights and continues a tragic truth of big-budget studio filmmaking: If people know the name, people often pay.

But couldn't we have had something more fun? This new iteration of the doctor who talks to animals is undeniably generic, lacking the humor and playfulness that Eddie Murphy brought to the role in the late nineties. Downey's performance is more akin to Rex Harrison's in the 1967 musical adaptation, the first time this story hit the silver screen, but it's still lacking a charm that must be met for a movie like this to work. Downey never seems to be having much fun, despite the silly tools available to him, as his character sports a ridiculous accent and silly clothing while the actor quietly places a paycheck in his pocket.

Perhaps he was having a good time, but you're hardly able to tell based on the movie's painful tedium and karaoke narrative. When Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) falls gravely ill, a secluded Dr. Dolittle is summoned to find a special fruit that will cure her ailments, located on the mythical island of Sumatra. But Dolittle is still grieving his wife, a fact made evident by a mangy beard and hairstyle that makes him look like a hash dealer on Venice Beach. Once he's convinced to go on this perilous journey, Downey shaves, turns his long hair into an unkempt mop, and throws on some tinted sunglasses, now resembling a San Fernando Valley coke supplier.

There's also a kid named Tommy (Harry Collett) who stumbles into Dolittle's Willy Wonka-esque isolated mansion after putting a bullet in the side of a squirrel voiced by Craig Robinson. Conveniently inserting himself into Dolittle's adventure, the two humans embark on a narrative that blends "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Lord of the Rings," and all the Marvel movies. I could list countless others, but the point is that we've seen this all before. There isn't a note of originality in this film, and its beats are so steadily banal that you can barely call it rhythm. It's just hitting a broken drum over and over again.

And don't forget about the talking animals, which is essentially the main reason kids will be drawn to this juvenile mess (and children should be the only audience this movie is for (unless you enjoy the cinematic experience of taking really bad acid and visiting a petting zoo).

Where to start? There's Oscar winner Rami Malek, voicing a gorilla named Chee-Chee -- anxious, and following an arc where he learns not to be afraid by the afore-mentioned act of a tiger being kicked in the nads. There's Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as Dab-Dab, an eclectic duck with a metal leg. There's Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as a fox named Tutu, and two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes as Barry -- the tiger who, in case you forget, gets a gorilla's foot in his bits. Then there's the bickering pair of Yoshi (a polar bear voiced by John Cena) and ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani), who contribute my favorite pair of lines in the entire movie. After scene after scene of quarrels, the two animals finally become friends. Plimpton asks, "What's this warm, fuzzy feeling," to which Yoshi responds, "That's friendship, bro."

Oh, and there's also a dragon (a fucking dragon) who murders a bunch of people during the finale, followed by Dolittle performing a colon surgery on him. I'm not lying. And like that dragon's colon, this movie is a vessel of fiery shit.

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