The 2020 version of “Dolittle” marks Robert Downey Jr. removing bagpipes from a CG dragon’s rectum before getting a faceful of gastric wind as a prize.
Downey’s revival of Hugh Lofting’s legendary verbose doctor
Downey’s revival of Hugh Lofting’s traditional verbose doctor, one who can talk with any member of any classes, splats onto the screen like horse manure, with some laughs and no sorcery.
In fact, the actor’s traditional allure, which this project extremely required, gets tamped down by creating a sad widower the hero of a kiddie film and by having that widower mumble in a pitch that’s likely Welsh, maybe Irish, possibly Scottish, but surely the opposition of parody.
“Dolittle” does not have a part of the energy of the similarly deceived “Cats,” but it does give with that film a large amount of “What were they considering?” determinations, first and foremost the concept of setting the movie in the Victorian period but having the doctor’s friendly menagerie converse solely in 21st-century online sass.
According to a source, it took four authors, adding director Stephen Gaghan (“Syriana,” “Gold”), to cook up a dull story whereby Dr. John Dolittle (Downey) — depart from the world since the demise of his wife.
An adventurer is tempted back into it by the appearance of two children: Stubbins (Harry Collett), an animal-lover who desires to become Dolittle’s assistant, and Lady Rose, Queen Victoria’s lady-in-expectation, who wishes the doctor can preserve the critically ill king.
Dolittle moves to Buckingham Palace, where he decides that the queen has been killed by poisonous nightshade, and the only remedy is the fruit of the Eden Tree, the fictitious plant that Dolittle’s wife vanished seeking to discover.
Dolittle accepts Stubbins as a first partner
By some coaxing from bird Poly which is voiced by Emma Thompson, Dolittle accepts Stubbins as a first partner, and they are away on a sea experience and fighting with the evil plots of Blair Müdfly (Sheen) and Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent) — the confederates who killed Victoria in the first spot — and pirate King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas, with gradually kohl-rimmed eyes), who has his personal reasons for disliking Dolittle.
There is probably one set-piece including whale contact and assistance that serves, and one gag that pays off (including “The Godfather,” so you know the children will adore it), but for the most part, “Dolittle” prevails as semi-comatose as Queen Victoria.
The visual effects of the film are flawless till they are not (Poly’s bright plumage toward Dolittle’s gloomy, vine-covered house is hysteria to the eyeballs), and editor Craig Alpert attempts but eventually abandons to cut through the lethargy of the steps.
The starting sequence includes 2-D animation with a story by Thompson; doing the whole film that way would have been far more pleasant to see.