Director: Stephen Gaghan
Writer: Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand (Screenplay) Thomas Shepherd (Story)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Harry Collett
Plot: A physician who can talk to animals embarks on an adventure to find a legendary island with a young apprentice and a crew of strange pets.
Tagline – He’s just not a people person.
Runtime: 1 Hour 41 Minutes
There may be spoilers in the rest of the review
Story: Dolittle starts as we learn how Dr John Dolittle (Downey Jr) travelled the world saving animals with his wife Lilly, only for her to be lost at sea on her own voyage, turning John into closing himself off to the world with animals. When young boy Tommy Stubbins (Collett) shots a squirrel, he gets guided to the mansion along with a message from Queen Victoria (Buckley) asking for his help.
John Dolittle must go on the same voyage that took his wife to save the Queen of England, which will see him taking on a new enemy, teaching his ways to the Tommy and complete the journey that will give him closure about his wife.
Thoughts on Dolittle
Characters & Performances – Dr John Dolittle has closed himself off from the world after losing his wife at sea, he still cares for the animals in the mansion, trying to help build their strengths, while accepting their weaknesses. He is forced to give up his life of solidarity to save the Queen of England, who gave him the land for the animals. John takes on an apprentice and is joined by his animals in search for a cure, while will see him come face to face with an old enemy and deal with his own demons. Robert Downey Jr does bring this character to life with his eccentric style even if the accent can go missing at times, but he shows the pain his character has been through in life very well through the film. Tommy Stubbins is from a family of hunters, he doesn’t want to kill animals though, which sees him injury one and get guided to Dolittle for help, he joins the journey and ends up learning the kindness that can be shown to animals. Harry Collett add the innocent and excitement to the film, showing us just how important his character is to the connecting to the human side of life. When it comes to the animals, the different species blend together wonderfully, with the voice performances adding new levels to the film, John Cena as Yoshi the polar bear and Kumail Nanjiani as the ostrich show brilliant chemistry with all the best lines in the film. Rami Malek as Chee-Chee the gorilla has the most serious side of all of the animals, showing us how characters will need to overcome fears in life.
Story – The story here follows Dr John Dolittle as he needs to come out of his reclusive life to save the Queen of England and put the tragedy of his own life behind him. Having only ever seeing the Eddie Murphy version of Dr Dolittle, I didn’t know what I was expecting going into this movie, the story is very different, moving away from the sudden change, focusing on the established man who has always helped animals from around the world, in a different era, the Victorian England world. This does bring a new lease of life to the story, playing into the eras technology as well as showing us how different animals together can achieve more, instead of making them circus animals, like many he has rescued through the years. The journey side of the story is everything we have seen before, but works by keeping things simple, with each step becoming more challenging, but the teamwork helping achieve the goal of the journey. We might well end up having a few too many farts jokes, though this would play in for the younger audience to get a laugh along the way.
Themes – Dolittle brings us an adventure that will see the characters travel across the ocean for a mythical item, which could save the queen, it will be filled with peril, which does get the unity of family coming through in how everything unfolds, while also offering us the comedy, which often sees character paired up for each laugh along the way. The film uses the settings well, bringing us from the beautiful mansion where the animals live in peace, to Buckingham Palace, the open water ships and the land of King Rassouli, which could have easily come out of any Game of Thrones set. The costumes used in the film are used to show the characters backgrounds well, with the eccentric ones that Dolittle himself has, to the limited style that Tommy has, coming from a poor family, with Dr Blair Mudfly in all black, showing his darker nature to everything. The animals might well be CGI, but they work very well in the film, making everything feel more connected in the long run during the film, not looking out of place, like many CGI animals in the past.
Plimpton & Yoshi’s banter
Chee-Chee needing to overcome his fears
The Victorian setting.
Dolittle’s accent, not sure what it was meant to be.
Final Thoughts – Dolittle is an enjoyable family film, which can be filled with laughs along the way.