Robert Downey, Jr., returns to the big screen Friday, January 17th, 2020, as a physician and veterinarian with an uncanny ability to literally speak to animals. When sent on the adventure of a lifetime on behalf of the ill queen, Dr. John Dolittle loads up his family of feathers and fur to set sail on a voyage where he and his menagerie ultimately discover that helping others is a marvelous way to help one’s self.
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Doolittle: A Footprints Review
Okay, I admit that I have been waiting with anticipation to screen this movie. Those who know me are quite familiar with the fact that I am a huge Robert Downey, Jr., fan and I have been waiting to see what he would do with his career once he hung up the red and gold suit for good.
But let’s be honest. Dolittle has already been the subject of mixed reviews. The buzz around the popcorn machine is whether or not this movie is going to see success independent of its literary source. The trailer gives off one vibe to some and another to story purists who are dreading what Stephan Gaghan would do with their beloved Dr. John Dolittle.
Needless to say, I did my best to go in with an open mind. In the end, I found myself pleasantly surprised. I actually found Dolittle intriguing, captivating and amusing. Believe it or not, my 16 year old son, who accompanied me, felt the same way! We both found ourselves chuckling and smiling throughout the entire one hour 46 minutes of footage.
Now, what was it about the film that we enjoyed so much? And what do we think could have been better? Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we?
HAVE YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO CHECK OUT OUR REVIEW OF THE TRAILER?
About the Movie
First, a synopsis…
After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Downey), famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company. But when the young queen (Jessie Buckley, Wild Rose) falls gravely ill, a reluctant Dolittle is forced to set sail on an epic adventure to a mythical island in search of a cure, regaining his wit and courage as he crosses old adversaries and discovers wondrous creatures.
The doctor is joined on his quest by a young, self-appointed apprentice (Dunkirk’s Harry Collett) and a raucous coterie of animal friends, including an anxious gorilla (Oscar® winner Rami Malek), an enthusiastic but bird-brained duck (Oscar® winner Octavia Spencer), a bickering duo of a cynical ostrich (The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani) and an upbeat polar bear (John Cena, Bumblebee) and a headstrong parrot (Oscar® winner Emma Thompson), who serves as Dolittle‘s most trusted advisor and confidante.
Now a little explanation…
In just reading the synopsis, it’s likely understood that the movie is going to veer off course. While there are many nods and elements to the two decade long series written by Hugh Lofting, there is a good deal of creative license taken with this film when compared to the original books.
A little history lesson: Lofting originally wrote his tales of Doctor Dolittle as illustrative letters to his children while he was in the trenches of World War I. His intent was to fill their minds with more beautiful depictions of life that could drown out either the mundane or the true tragedies of their day.
The current adaptation does seem to draw some from the second book in the series, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, with the introduction of Stubbins and a squirrel. Needless to say, the adventure takes a rather different route from there. While we still see familiar animals and go on a crazy adventure, the tale is quite new and should be viewed independent of Lofting’s works.
What I liked About the Movie
While I’m usually not a fan of stories that take a left turn when the book took a right, this movie still impressed me. It was entertaining and funny, bringing a smile to my face (and my son’s!). Who can say anything negative about a movie like that?
I mean, as noted above, I’m a ginormous RDJ fan and that probably paints a bit of a biased picture. Since my teen years, I’ve casually followed the actor and am so in awe of the victories he has won for himself in life. He fascinates me in every film I see with him cast ~ and I am astonished to see the various emotions he has the ability to both control and emote on the screen.
Now, despite my personal bias, I still enjoyed the overall direction Gaghan took this version of Dolittle. In this particular film, RDJ’s role almost seemed to be an over-exaggerated version of his Sherlock Holmes persona. We’re talking eccentric – constantly thinking – a little strange and unusual (to say the least). Add some sugar to his bloodstream and you pretty much have RDJ’s version of the famed nineteenth century doctor.
That CGI, though!!!
It cannot go without saying how impressed I was (for the most part) with the CGI in this film! Maybe it was just me – I don’t know. On close inspection, however, I honestly could not find much (at least on first viewing) that made me wince or “tsk, tsk.” The animals’ emotions seemed genuine. The scenery was captivating. RDJ’s focus and attention seemed spot-on with his (non-existent) animal “co-stars.” It was done well enough to leave me wishing I could have jumped into the story myself.
What – you’ve never wanted to talk to animals or go on an adventure with Robert Downey, Jr???
What I didn’t like about the movie
(sigh). Okay, so I did say that I enjoyed the movie. However, that doesn’t mean that the dramatic new course it took didn’t disappoint to some degree. My heart breaks for purists who may have been waiting for the series itself to come alive for them on the big screen. I mean, could there have been an opportunity missed here by not starting from the actual beginning? I guess we’ll never know (or will we?).
Of course, would RDJ have signed on if that were the case? I’m not sure how keen he is on another “series.”
On another note, but without going into too much detail, I do have to admit that I was not thrilled with certain roles that were created or cast in this film. RDJ is obviously brilliant (in my opinion) and I actually enjoyed the various voice actors that were involved. However, there were some on-screen faces and roles that just didn’t cut it for me (the queen, the lady in waiting – which had my son and me baffled for many reasons). I either couldn’t understand why that actor was cast or why they wrote that character into the script and in that way.
Would I recommend
There is no doubt in my mind that this was intentionally made suitable for young eyes ~ and well it should be since it is fashioned after a series of children’s books. This becomes quite evident by the way the dialogue is shaped and delivered in the script. While there is no blatant profanity (maybe one “d” word?), there are cunning little statements that would make any youngster laugh (more on that below).
However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say an adult would not enjoy it. I found it a breath of fresh air and quite amusing. As I noted earlier, the movie made me smile and I walked out with that smile intact. My 16 year old son did the same. In fact, and I quote, he found it:
“somewhat predictable and formulaic, (but) a really enjoyable movie – funny, charming, interesting and impressive.”
Yup – I think this one is getting a thumbs up from us!
So, would I recommend it? If you can disconnect yourself from the series and see it as an independent film, then yes! I would recommend it to families as a whole. If not, then…I’d still say yes. I personally think it’s worth giving this movie a shot.
INTERESTING MOVIE TIDBIT: This was actually Stephen Gaghan’s first family adventure movie. He is better known for his writing and directing movies that involve more action, adult themes and rather serious topics.
What you should know
I’m sure you caught that I noted there was no profanity in the film. However, I want to at least bring to light that there is childish dialogue from time to time. The word “poop” is used, as is “flipping off.” Mind you, you see no middle finger being raised ~ but the reference is there.
As in most movies, there are a handful of antagonists in the movie and they all seek to bring harm at certain pivotal points. In fact, they do seek to harm with the intent to kill. However, some of the roles are extremely over-dramatized and comical. For instance, Dolittle’s competitive archenemy, Müdfly, reminds me so much of Bowler Hat Guy from Meet The Robinsons.
With regard to other questionable topics, there is no nudity, no sex and nothing that should cause a parent to worry about what their child is about to watch. There is a reference to romance sprinkled throughout the movie, but nothing inappropriate is seen or mentioned.
Oh, and there is at least one little kiss.
The movie is just under the two hour mark – not too shabby for a movie intended for families. I would say that this should be a good choice for those whose littles have no problem sitting for that long in a dark theater. The screen will certainly keep their attention.
For the purists, simply do not go in expecting to see an adaptation of any one particular book in the Lofting series. If you do, you will find yourself quite disappointed.
But if you can separate yourself from that expectation, I encourage you to see the movie. Take the time to sit back and enjoy it. It’s charming, whimsical and full of heartfelt moments. It’s exactly what you would hope to see in a movie that was designed for the entire family to watch together.
While predictable, Dolittle is “an adventure of a lifetime” where we get to see how “teamwork makes the dream work.” My son and I enjoyed the film very much and look forward to seeing it again with the rest of the crew.
Dolittle arrives in theaters January 17th, 2020.
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- Facebook: @DolittleMovie
- Twitter: @DolittleMovie
- Instagram: #DolittleMovie
- Hashtag: #DolittleMovie
Enjoy this fun clip on the various animals “auditioning” for their roles. I challenge you not to smile (hee, hee)…
Amazon picks for the Dolittle fan!
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