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'Dolittle': Movie Review

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From the Studio

After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle, famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company. But when the young queen falls gravely ill, a reluctant Dolittle is forced to set sail on an epic adventure to a mythical island in search of a cure.

First and Lasting Impressions

It is a brave choice to premiere a lighthearted family adventure flick in the midst of awards season. Critics’ eyes and pens are turned to films which Martin Scorsese would snobbishly deem as fitting his personal definition of “cinema.” Audiences have been bombarded with multi-layered psychological dramas which not only inspire introspection but also cause mental and emotional exhaustion.

Dolittle is not a cinematic masterpiece. It is simply – fun. Allow Doctor Dolittle to pull you out of the winter doldrums and into a colorful fantasy world where good is good, evil is evil, and the bad guys are bad for no other reason than they are bad. There are no complicated trauma-filled back stories explaining motivations for being a baddie.

The adventure begins with a problem that must be solved, a reluctant hero, his cheering companions, ensuing obstacles, and ends with a satisfying resolution. While it may seem simple, Dolittle also won’t leave you trying to explain the intricacies of an existential crisis to your kindergartner, à la Toy Story 4, or having to confront actual ghosts from the past as in Frozen II.

Doctor John Dolittle is a self-taught student of various animal languages, and his interactions with animal characters are rendered believably (as believably as talking animals can be). Graphic artists have avoided the misstep of creating overly anthropomorphized lab experiments gone wrong.

Along the way, the good doctor is joined by a young self-appointed apprentice, Stubbins, to assist in his quest. Their voyage dragged on for a little too long, but a bright spot was the time spent with the vengeful yet affable King Rassouli played by Antonio Banderas. Though peppered with some juvenile humor, Dolittle’s slapstick comedy avoids “potty” humor (a memorable visit with one particular creature was slightly cringey).

Hang in there, even when Robert Downey Jr.’s accent flips awkwardly between Welsh, Scottish, and…South African? The doctor is painted as an oddball, and the muddled accent somewhat adds to his eccentricity.

The fact is, RDJ possesses a charm which easily entices you to follow him on any adventure. It felt natural just to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride with Doctor Dolittle and his caravan of quirky, lovable misfits.

Know Before You Go

Have fun and enjoy the adventure!


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