Please do little to ensure you see this ghastly excuse for a movie.
Come to think of it, please don’t do anything at all, because “Dolittle” is one of the worst films in recent memory.
This is what critics mean by “January junk,” lesser movies recognized by studios as non-awards contenders, thrown onto the big screen after the Oscar hopefuls have been released.
The story line is almost nonexistent — it’s as underwhelming as the CGI presence is overwhelming. It was supposed to come out in 2019, but after it tested poorly with early-screening audiences, here it is plopped in the middle of January.
Its semblance to the wonderful Hugh Lofting children’s classics is scant. That whirring sound you hear? It's Lofting, spinning in his grave.
Stephan Gaghan, who earned an Academy Award (!) for writing “Traffic” and who also wrote and directed “Syriana,” directs this mess, which features not only a late-era Howard Hughes-esque Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) at the beginning but also a tiger with mother- and self-worth issues droning on and on about needing therapy (you have to see it to believe it, but please … don’t.)
The first couple of minutes are animated in a charming way to introduce Dolittle, who lives in the Victorian era, and explain how he has become a hermit and grieves a wife lost at sea. The narrator is Emma Thompson, who also voices Dolittle’s companion macaw.
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Dolittle lives with his animal companions, which include a gorilla, polar bear, bespectacled dog and a host of other critters.
Dolittle must manage two interruptions. One is a boy who accidentally has shot a squirrel, and brings the little creature to Dolittle to heal it. The other is a girl who tells Dolittle he has been summoned to tend Queen Victoria, who may be on her deathbed.
Dolittle and his animal companions suspect foul play. They set sail to an island where the only cure, which comes from a rare fruit, can be found.
Animals utter lame one-liners while the CGI creatures seem to be in a film different from the one containing the humans. The interaction never appears to be genuine.
The setting is Victorian England, so why does the script pander to its audience with current phrases and slang like “It’s show time!” and characters referring to each other as “bro?” What an insult to the audience.
A lot of color, running around and an abundance of CGI animals does not compensate for the lack of character development or lucid dialogue. Furthermore, the rude humor is unwelcome. I almost walked out when Dolittle removed a bagpipe from the nether regions of a large CGI character. Disgusting.