Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) lives in solitude behind the high walls of his lush manor in 19th-century England. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he speaks to on a daily basis. But when young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure...
You might think that this is some kind of hyperbole, that we're making this part up in order to be glib and funny, but it really is true - the climax of 'Dolittle' involves Robert Downey Jr. pulling bagpipes and armour out of a CGI dragon's ass. That's not a joke. We went to see this, you didn't, and that happened. The CGI dragon's ass was dismpacted by Oscar-winning actor Robert Downey Jr., and that's not even the worst part of this movie.
Let's begin with the director - Stephen Gaghan. Prior to dreaming up ways for Tony Stark to plunge his arm into an array of pixels representing the anus of a mystical beast, he wrote 'Traffic' and won an Oscar for his trouble. He also wrote and directed geopolitical thriller 'Syriana', starring George Clooney, and worked on TV procedurals like 'NYPD Blue' and 'The Practice' too.
Why then was he given the task of trying to augment a children's book into a launch vehicle for Robert Downey Jr.'s post-Marvel career? Would you send a plumber to fix a car? Would you ask a sous chef to cook you a steak? Sure, both of those people could probably take a stab at it, but why bother when you get literally anyone else to do it?
It's not as though there's a deficit of talented directors and writers out there in the world who could have done this far better? More to the point, you have to wonder at the utter lack of awareness as to the problems with 'Dolittle' that it got this far. Take, for example, Robert Downey Jr.'s accent. Did nobody think to tell him to maybe just drop it? If you can't convincingly do a Welsh accent, then don't bother? If you've got John Cena, with his corn-fed American accent voicing a polar bear, does Downey Jr. really need to mangle an accent to get that level of authenticity?
There are countless creative decisions made throughout 'Dolittle' that quite honestly boggle the mind, but chief among them is the fact this movie even exists in the first place. Throughout the movie, it's evident that this thing was savaged in the editing bay and the carcass was fired into cinemas between serviceable January horrors and Oscar-friendly offerings just to be rid of it, but what's fascinating is that it even got that far. There are moments of utter madness in 'Dolittle' that make you wonder how anyone thought that this was going to work.
Much like 'Cats', there's a real sense of bewilderment watching 'Dolittle' and while it may hold some kind of fascination with very, very young audience members, everyone else is left agape at what's going on. If this is to be Robert Downey Jr.'s next chapter in his career, best to just draw a line under this and think of something else because this isn't it.
'Dolittle' reeks of vanity project madness, complete with butchered editing, flat CGI, and the kind of hubristic storytelling that spells doom from the start. There is nothing redeemable in this, other than it's mercifully short. The supporting cast is decent, yes, but is it enough to save this? Absolutely not.
There is nothing in 'Dolittle' that is remotely worth your time. You can do yourself a big favour and watch literally anything else except this.