There comes a time in anyone’s life when they are faced with an event so horrifying, so disturbing, so hopeless that they question everything they stand for. It is a moment of crisis where they question what their purpose in life is. This came to me last evening during a screening of Universal’s latest blockbuster bomb, Dolittle. I watched in despair as Chee-Chee the gorilla (voiced by Academy Award winner Rami Malek) kicked Barry the tiger (voiced by Academy Award winner Ralph Fiennes) in the balls during a fight in order to protect an injured Polly the parrot (voiced by Academy Award winner Emma Thompson). There are many traumatizing moments like this scattered throughout the film, but it was at this point that I felt the most despondent. God is dead, and we have replaced him with an animated menagerie voiced by a shockingly high amount of award-winning actors.
Dolittle, based on the second entry in a series of children’s novels written by English author Hugh Lofting, tells the story of an isolated and antisocial Doctor John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.). His beloved wife Lily died at sea some time ago, and the heartbroken veterinarian closes his doors, leaving him alone with a wide array of animals. These animals include an always cold polar bear (voiced by John Cena), a sassy ostrich (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), a visually impaired dog (voiced by Tom Holland), a leek-obsessed duck (voiced by Octavia Spencer), and a fox seeming transported to quaint 1800s England from the battlefields of World War II era France (voiced by Marion Cotillard). Other animals make various appearances throughout the narrative, including a giraffe voiced by Selena Gomez and a dragonfly voiced by Jason Mantzoukas (the only person in the cast with any halfway decent jokes).
The lifeless story starts moving when Dolittle’s estate is trespassed on by two different intruders: an emotionless robot from Queen Victoria’s palace (Carmel Laniado), and a runaway from a production of Newsies bearing an injured squirrel (Harry Collett). It turns out that the safety of Dolittle’s home is in jeopardy: if the gravely ill Queen dies, the treasury will take the grounds away, leaving Dolittle out in the open, and his animal friends undefended during hunting season. Upon inspecting Her Majesty (a criminally underutilized Jessie Buckley), Dolittle must voyage on the open sea to find the magical cure, which is located on an island that only his dead wife knew the exact location of. Dolittle, his new apprentice boy, and his animal buddies set sail for adventure, not knowing that two of the Queen’s aides (Michael Sheen and Jim Broadbent) are willing to do anything to make sure that Her Majesty dies. Thus, with the pieces placed on the board, the race to find the cure and save the Queen before a solar eclipse that exists for no other reason than the need to create some sense of tension is on. Can Dolittle save her, and by extension, himself?
The flaws in Dolittle are so numerous I hardly know where to begin. The horrible anti-jokes, spurting from the mouths of uncanny computer-generated animals that range from a wildly out-of-place reference from The Godfather to a series of poop and fart jokes (shoved in by executives in a pathetic attempt to save the film)? The neverending series of continuity errors in both the editing and the eyeline levels between humans on set and the tennis balls they had to pretend were animals? The infantile acting, including Antonio Banderas in a deeply racist costume and Robert Downey Jr.’s utterly incoherent accent (an inbred crossbreed of Welsh, Irish, and Jamaican)? Or should I sling all my complaints at the baffling string of sequences that have been cobbled together into the form of a script by director Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) and first-time writers Chris McKay and Thomas Shepherd?
See the issue? Something wrong happened here. Even the most obscene of Hollywood productions usually have one or two redeeming factors buried deep within. Dolittle has none. It’s a vile film, as disgusting and unappealing as a drunken frat boy who’s trying to flirt with you despite being blissfully unaware that he’s pissed on his pastel shorts. It is a soulless product that hates both children and their parents. Any parent who even considers taking their children to this should have CPS called on them. Everyone involved with its production should be thrown in the Tower of London to rot, and the key to each cell melted into an anvil. Hyperbole? Sure. It’s deserved, though. Dolittle is an abomination like no other in recent memory, and destined to join Battlefield Earth and Foodfight in the annals of Hollywood history as unholy creations that should’ve been smothered to death before the cameras started rolling.
Now, if you’ll excuse, I’m going to quit cinema and become a hermit in the wilderness. Dolittle did me in.
F Review 2020 antonio banderas battlefield earth carmel laniado chris mckay dolittle emma thompson F foodfight harry collett jason mantzoukas jessie buckley jim broadbent john cena kumail nanjiani marion cotillard michael sheen octavia spencer ralph fiennes rami malek robert downey jr. selena gomez stephen gaghan syriana the godfather thomas shepherd tom holland traffic
21, born and raised in Boston. Mamma Mia wine mom personality. Jerry Gogosian of the film world.