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Dolittle Movie Review - Surface Charm with Heavy Life Lessons

Is Robert Downey Jr. seriously miscast as this new character?

Reviewed by on Jan 16, 2020
Rating: 3 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews Dolittle, Robert Downey Jr.’s first character after Tony Stark/Iron-Man. The film mixes charm, heavy subjects, cute CGI animals and a plot too much like Pirates of the Caribbean.

In Victorian England, after losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric veterinarian Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) has rejected human contact and hidden himself away in his manor with only animals for company. When the young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) falls gravely ill, she sends Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) to talk Dolittle into treating her. This launches Dolittle, self-declared young assistant Stubbins (Harry Collette) and the animals on a quest adventure to find a mythical island in search of a cure.

Dolittle Trailer



Stubbins and the Squirrel

Young Stubbins is mortified after accidentally shooting a squirrel while forced to hunt by his dad. When a parrot named Polynesia (voice of Emma Thompson) guides him to the estate of Dr. Dolittle in order to save the squirrel Kevin (Craig Robinson), Stubbins is caught in a net. Dolittle, an eccentric hermit, is busy inside playing chess, with mice as pieces, with a talking gorilla named Chee-Chee (Rami Malek). Outside, Lady Rose has discovered Stubbins caught in the trap with Kevin. She frees him and he’s shocked when the door is answered by Chee-Chee.

Lady Rose and Stubbins are enchanted by the animalsLady Rose and Stubbins are enchanted by the animalsCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Sick Queen

Lady Rose has come to inform Dolittle that the Queen, who is deathly ill, needs him, a plea he rejects, but he does go into action to save Kevin. When Dolittle is reminded that his animal sanctuary’s “for life” grant means the Queen’s life and not his own, he heads for the palace along with pals polar bear Yoshi (John Cena) and duck Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer), while he rides Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani), an ostrich who keeps sticking his head in the sand to hide.

Dolittle decides to venture outside after many yearsDolittle decides to venture outside after many yearsCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Palace Intrigue

In the Queen’s chamber, Dolittle meets his old college medical school nemesis, Queen Victoria’s palace physician Dr. Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen), who has been treating Victoria with leeches…ewwww and resents Dolittle’s interference.  Dolittle sticks his head into an aquarium to consult with Leonora an octopus who tells him that Lord Badgley (Jim Broadbent) has poisoned the Queen and the only known antidote is the fruit of the Eden Tree, its location noted in Dolittle’s late wife’s missing journal. Leaving Lady Rose in charge of overseeing the Queen’s meals and his walking stick Styx on a painting as a ‘listening device,’ Dolittle sets sail with his menagerie to find the fruit. He has one week to save the Queen before she succumbs to the toxin.

Was the Queen Poisoned?Was the Queen Poisoned?Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Boat Trip

When Dolittle tells Stubbins he can’t go on the dangerous voyage, it’s a scramble for him to board the ship as Betsy the giraffe (Selena Gomez) and Tutu, a fox (Marion Cotillard), help him. Baddie Lord Badgley sends Mudfly on an armored ship to follow the Dolittle gang to make sure they don’t get the antidote. At one point, when Mudfly’s ship is gaining,  Dolittle hooks his ship up to a whale harness and a cooperative whale tows the ship at top speed. Meanwhile, Stubbins learns more animal talk and polar bear and ostrich form a friendship.

Dolittle, animals and Stubbins on their voyageDolittle, animals and Stubbins on their voyageCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Another Island First

Dolittle’s adventuresome wife Lily left her journal with the location of the Eden fruit in the keeping of her father pirate King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas) on Monte Verde Island. Dolittle and the gang go there first and sneak into the palace to get the journal.

Rassouli captures DolittleRassouli captures DolittleCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Of course there are traps and locks to pick, guards to avoid or fight and, for a captured Dolittle, an angry tiger Barry (Ralph Fiennes) who wants to eat him for lunch, has mommy issues and blames Dolittle for not finishing his therapy years ago. Mudfly arrives and sinks Dolittle’s ship but the animals there escape. He gets the journal.

Mudfly has the journalMudfly has the journalCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Making Up and Setting Out

Overhearing how much Dolittle loved his daughter Lily, Rassoulim gives him a ship. Whales guide Dolittle and bunch to the island containing the healing Eden Tree but the tree is guarded by the ferocious and ill-tempered dragon Ginko-Who-Soars (Frances de la Tour). Can Dolittle talk to her, help her and gain access to the tree in time to save the Queen?

Can Dolittle help the queen recover?Can Dolittle help the queen recover?Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Stay in your seat for a funny scene that shows us the fate of baddie Mudfly. Also, music artist Sia performs a nice new song for the end credits of the movie called "Original".

Wrapping Up

Dolittle has a surface level charm while addressing some serious issues. A lot of the animals talk about abandonment, a tiger has mom issues, Dolittle can’t stop mourning for his dead wife, etc. yet much of the adventure plays like the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie….sea chases, pirates in port, a treasure to find, etc. so we’ve been there and seen that…done better. The film contains a dragon fart joke that little kids will no doubt love. It takes a while to establish animal relationships before the true quest adventure gets started.

Dolittle, Stubbins and animals confront a dragonDolittle, Stubbins and animals confront a dragonCourtesy of Universal Pictures

There were problems with Downey doing a Welsh accent…softly so that much of his dialogue had to be re-recorded and his mouth doesn’t always match the words. The usually gregarious, self-assured, outgoing actor seems muted and not quite comfortable in his character. However, the many famous A-list voice actors for the animals do a nice job.

Stubbins and the animals bondStubbins and the animals bondCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Some jokes, usually involving the animals, are cute and successful, others not so much. CGI animals are mostly believable and adorable except there was something a little jerky, strange about the look of dog Jip.

Dolittle talks to dog JipDolittle talks to dog JipCourtesy of Universal Pictures

Dolittle is far from perfect but there are enough entertaining moments, especially for animal lovers, to make it entertaining. We can award three stars.

Dolittle Movie Rating: 3

Dolittle Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Pictures

See Dolittle in theaters now!

Are You a Fan?

Are you a fan of talking animals or Robert Downey Jr.? Can you accept him as a new character? What would you ask an animal if you could talk to them? Tell everyone with a comment or write about it on your Kidzworld profile page!


By: Lynn Barker