By Mr. Will Wong
Based on Hugh Loftin‘s Doctor Dolittle, Stephen Gaghan (Syriana, Traffic) has the ambitious task of taking a beloved tale and translating it for a new generation in DOLITTLE. How best do to this? Cast someone incredibly-charming and charismatic in the lead role to make it an easy-sell.
The Film centers on fame veterinarian John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) who becomes a recluse after he comes widowed. After Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) injures a squirrel one day while hunting, he enlists the help of Dolittle who is reluctant to assist, shunning the company of any humans in surrounding himself with a band of speaking animals who act as his helpers.
Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), we learn has fallen gravely-ill and Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) is tasked with finding Dolittle, the only one who can help. The challenge however is getting Dolittle out of his isolation to save the Queen, but before he knows it, those behind her demise are uncovered and it is up to Dolittle and his band of friends to come together and pull through in their biggest challenge yet.
Dolittle is a light-hearted adventure and certainly packs a few enjoyable laughs along the way to keep the audience invested in the journey. While the Film’s blending of Victorian-English with modern speak like “I’ve got your back” works to mixed results, the Film weighs almost entirely on Downey‘s fantastic, animated performance. Despite the Film doing an adequate job taking us on this journey to saving Queen Victoria, we wish Gaghan, Dan Gregor and Doug Mand’s Script explained better why the forces are out to get Queen Victoria and Dolittle. And we wish it took us a layer deeper into Dolittle‘s coping with grief to give it all that bit more sentiment. A brilliant Supporting Cast of players help make it all fun, including standouts Rami Malek as Chee-Chee the Gorilla, John Cena as Yoshi the Polar Bear, Kumail Najjiani as Plimpton the Ostrich and Tom Holland as Jip the Dog.
Families should marvel in some of the Film’s fantastic CGI work and find joy in its lessons in kindness to animals and being selfless. Universal Pictures Canada release DOLITTLE Friday, January 17, 2020.