Robert Downey Jr. (“Avengers: Endgame”) has had many successful movies over the years, despite personal difficulties that have arisen over the course of his career. Movies that he’s starred in, like “Iron Man,” “Zodiac” and “Chaplin,” are legendary pieces of work. Unfortunately, “Dolittle,” in which he plays the titular character, is not one of those stellar films that will go down in history.
Downey himself isn’t particularly at fault for the movie’s flaws, with the exception of his accent that I, and everyone with whom I saw this film, could not place. Viewers have complained about the use of CGI and the differences between this rendition of Dr. Dolittle’s story and its predecessors, but the real problem with the film is the plot itself.
The plot is extraordinarily predictable. Nearly all children’s movies are predictable of course, and typically I don’t mind because something usually makes up for it. Sometimes it’s songs that take my mind off the predictability or incredible animation that captures my attention. However, this film didn’t have anything to make up for its lackluster plot.
John Dolittle is an animal doctor who loses his wife, cuts himself off from the human world, finds himself tasked with saving the queen, uses the help of a human boy and reconnects with his lost empathetic side … end of story. You recognize the villains the second they appear on screen. You can tell that Stubbins (Harry Collett, “Dunkirk”), the boy Dolittle tries to push away, will be an important addition to the story from the moment Dolittle realizes he doesn’t want to be a hunter.
You know that all the animals who cling to Dolittle for help will achieve some semblance of independence and confidence from the first scene in which they appear. There are no plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat or even a single moment of real suspense. The fact that it’s a kid’s movie isn’t an excuse for a cut and dry story that leaves you unsatisfied and wanting more.
The few good moments of the film, mostly humorous remarks from Plimpton the ostrich (Kumail Nanjiani, “The Big Sick”) and Kevin the squirrel (Craig Robinson, “This is the End”), while admittedly funny, were not enough to keep the movie afloat. There were too many poor scenes and moments that outnumbered the good few — with Dolittle extracting obstructions from a dragon’s intestines as probably the lowest, and most disturbing, part of the film.
As much as I wanted to like this film and its all-star cast, I just couldn’t. While I’m sure kids who don’t look for much in movies beside some funny animals and colorful scenes will enjoy the film, most others probably won’t. It’s safe to say “Dolittle” is a movie that you can wait to watch on TV one day when you have nothing else to do, and maybe not even then.