The doctor is in and he can talk to animals. He’s led an adventurous life but he calls an end to all adventures when his wife dies in a shipwreck. In order to avoid losing anyone else, he stops all contact with humans. Living his life within his sanctuary with his animals and no one else. That is, until the Queen (Jessie Buckley) herself falls gravely ill and she needs Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) to help her. He takes on an apprentice, Stubbins (Harry Collett), and the humans along with an ostrich (Kumail Nanjiani), a polar bear (John Cena), a gorilla (Rami Malek), a macaw (Emma Thompson), and a few other animals set off on a trip to find a tree that no one believes exist, on an island no one has been able to find.
I loved Dr. Dolittle (1998) with Eddie Murphy, so when it was announced that the story would be returning to the screen, re-envisioned and with Robert Downey Jr. playing the titular role, I was intrigued. However, when I say re-envision, I really mean it. In this version, Dr. Dolittle does not have any children, and his wife has died in a shipwreck. It is also based somewhere between 1837 and 1901, since Queen Victoria is the one who calls upon Dr. Dolittle, and she reigned during these years. The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts by Hugh Lofting was originally published in 1920 and while the stories aren’t the same, it isn’t hard to assume that the story takes place during similar years.
This being said, I think the movie was entertaining. It was the first role I’ve seen Robert Downey Jr. in since his iconic portrayal of Iron Man, and I think he did a really good job. The movie was funny, it was sentimental, it was serious and it was suspenseful. It told a tale that we’ve heard before, following a pattern we’ve come to know. The main character is broken when we meet him, choosing to isolate himself from any other humans because he lost the love of his life and is terrified of experiencing that kind of pain again. Then he is introduced to someone a lot younger than he, someone who can remind him of the good that life can bring. There’s a call to duty, one he almost ignored until he learned that it would mean he would lose his animal sanctuary. There’s a villain that we the audience learn is the villain pretty early on, who is fueled by jealousy and the need to be better than our protagonist. Despite following a similar path as many stories before them, I didn’t feel bored. The world that we were able to step into through this film was really beautiful.
The one character that surprised me was Rassouli, the king of pirates, played by Antonio Banderas. He was Lily’s father, and for this, he resents Dolittle for the death of his daughter. I’ve liked Banderas ever since his role in Spy Kids, so it is always a nice when he pops up in new movies. All in all, I enjoyed this movie and that’s always a goal when I watch a new movie. However, I don’t think it will leave a lasting mark and I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end of this year, many forget that it happened. This has little to do with the individual movie but more about the amount of movies that come out every year. It is taking a lot more for movies to stand out to an average moviegoer. With a constant stream of new movies every week, it is no wonder when December comes around and people find themselves stunned when recalling movies that came out that same year.
Have you guys seen Dolittle? What did you think of it?