Plagued by forced-in reshoots and suffering from a paper-thin plot, it seems not even Robert Downey Jr. is able to carry this film to watchable status.
Dolittle is directed by Stephen Gaghan and stars Robert Downey Jr as Dolittle. The film boasts a large cast of voice talent including; Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, and Marion Cotillard. The film serves as a reboot to the Doctor Dolittle films. The franchise has previously had films in 1967 and later a 1998 film series with Eddie Murphy in the lead role. As with most films in the current Hollywood spectrum, it was time to relook at older franchises to see how much juice remains. The film seemed to start off with the right foot with a strong lead but it seems not much else can be said in a positive light.
Dolittle tells the story of Dr. John Dolittle, a doctor with the ability to communicate with animals. The film reboot takes a slightly different route to cover the character as it now looks at a Dolittle who is past his prime. His best days as an animal doctor are behind me after the death of his wife. His need to get back into the world arises when the Queen of England is in danger. Together with many of his animal friends, John Dolittle embarks on a quest to save the Queen and find a cure. At face value, the film is simply a children’s movie with some Pirates of the Carribean elements mixed in. Unfortunately, even a plot this simple found a way to feel watered down when actually experiencing it. Dolittle has very little going for it. The story felt childish at best, the characters are paper-thin and the humor felt flat, to say the least.
One of the primary reasons for blame is the reshoots added in the film. Rumors suggested that the film did not perform as well in test screenings, with many saying Dolittle was too dark and not enough humor was injected in the film. It appears that Robert Downey Jr wanted to take the film in a direction that took the character more seriously, attempting a character study for the well-known doctor. Instead, last-minute reshoots added in a variety of fart jokes, including a climactic sequence that was borderline unwatchable. Unfortunately, if there was a good Dolittle movie, it was not the one released to the masses.
Overall, Dolittle was a mess on every level. The story that was meant to be timeless was instead a watered-down version only existing to appeal a specific child demographic. While Robert Downey Jr had the potential to play the doctor memorably, the script that was given to him simply made it impossible.