Directed by Stephen Gaghan
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Michael Sheen, Emma Thompson. Rami Malek, Harry Collett, Kasia Smutniak
Runtime: 101 minutes
Rating PG (for action, rude humor and brief language)
Last week we went into WWI on a perilous mission. This week a complete 180. There have been many adaptions of Doctor Dolittle most recently the films starring Eddie Murphy. This story actually started in the form of children’s book by Hugh Lofting. The first one The Story of Doctor Dolitte was published in 1920. I also had reservations going in. I’ve done “children’s” films in the past, but as someone without kids I wondered if there would be enough there for me to enjoy. It did bring us Robert Downey Jr. back after his exit from the Marvel films so there was some hope.
Onto the film.
We open (surprisingly) with animation. We meet the peculiar Dr. Dolittle (Downey Jr.) and learn of his backstory. He was gifted an estate from the Queen of England and there he helps animals of all shapes and sizes. Eventually he meets a woman named Lily (Smutnaik) and they fall in love. The Dolittles travel the world finding new animals and exploring. Life is good. Then as it seems to happen, things begin to take a turn for the worst. Lily is lost at sea on an adventure and Dr. Dolittle is. He closes the manor off and becomes a recluse.
The film then cuts to live action, as we meet two boys and the father/uncle. Tommy Stubbins (Collett) isn’t like his uncle and cousin. He hates to hunt and would rather save the animals. By accident he shoots a squirrel and sneaks off after hearing Poly (Thompson) a talking macaw tell him to follow her. As you can imagine he ends up at the Dolittle Manor and begs Dr. Dolittle for help. The years haven’t been kind to him. He looks reminiscent of Tom Hanks in Castaway. As this is happening, another child comes in. She has been dispatched by the Queen of England to get Dolittle’s help. She is gravely ill. After some prodding Dolittle reluctantly agrees to go. But not without his family. The crew has become Dolittle, Tommy, Chee-Chee (Malik) a nervous gorilla, Yoshi (Cena) a polar bear who’s always cold, Plimpton (Nanjiana) a ostrich who always complains, Dab-Dab (Spencer) a duck always mistaking food for medical instruments, Jip (Holland) a dog who assists Dolitte in surgeries, and lastly Polynesia (Thompson) the loyal macaw who’s essentially the mother figure of the bunch.
We are off to Buckingham Palace where we meet the “big bad” of the film. Dr. Blair Mudfly (Sheen) is a rival of Dolittles. They went to school together and it’s obvious immediately he is our villain. The premise of this film becomes simple. The group must find an anecdote from a plant never seen before from place no one has visited.
The premise saying go from A to B works in this film. It’s not necessarily about the story its about the group. Each animal brought a different personality to the film and I found myself smiling every few minutes. What really hit home to me was the overall message. We hear Dolittle (Downey Jr.) telling Chee-Chee (Malik) to “rise to the occasion” that he is “stronger than he knows.” I find myself telling people those same things and I was feel like we should lift others up ESPECIALLY when times are tough. I hope these messages come across to you and your family as you’re watching this film. This film isn’t perfect, but I can’t fault it entirely. It’s obviously a children’s film. The acting from our villain Dr. Mudfly (Sheen) is WAY to over the top. Everyone else in the cast, and even the animals are relatively grounded, but it felt like Mudfly was just trying too hard to be bad. You could tell as soon as he spoke. Maybe they wanted to portrayal it that way, but it took me out of the film every time he was on screen (imagine sinister laugher while curling a mustache.) If you have a family or want to take a few hours and just laugh, then go see this film. I feel that your children or grandchildren will love the animals and laugh at the jokes. There are even a few for adults too! 3 stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL
Andrew McManus is Operations Manager for Patties & Pints and its parent company Eflow Development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-981-9158