I’m treating this post as an open letter of sorts to Team Downey, Roth Films, and Perfect World Pictures, the companies credited in the Production of Dolittle. First up: A warning. Parents, don’t take your kids to see this movie. It’s bad. Really, really bad. Bad in ways that disrespect its core audience, and, I’ll admit, bad in ways that I find personally mesmerizing, bad in ways that demand academic study. Just, guys, watch the Paddington movies again. Please.
There’s a really easy path for making Dolittle work. That path is the path of understatement: When the movie opens and we first meet RDJ as Dr. Dolittle, there’s no dialogue, just animal grunts and squawks traded between him and his CGI animal buds. That’s interesting. Once the voice cast kicks in and high-caliber actors ranging from Emma Thompson to Marion Cotillard to Octavia Spencer start putting words into the animals’ mouths, the needle skips and everything gains an instant embarrassment factor.
So, you producing bodies: Don’t do that. Don’t take a movie like Dolittle as a chance to cram a dozen different actors into roles that aren’t even “roles,” rather just vehicles for cringey one-liners whose delivery is tangential to whatever’s happening in the story. There’s no magic there. Keep a few voice actors; let the rest of the animals be animals, and let the audience imagine that Dolittle is talking to them. Then, don’t write a climax where a dragon farts after having a set of bagpipes yanked out of her ass. This is an actual thing that happens in Dolittle.
More free advice: Don’t jam a trilogy into a single movie. There’s an origin story here, a redemption story, and then a post-redemption story, coarsely blended into something resembling a narrative. You could have stuck with the animated introduction (you could even have kept it animated!), and used that as the blueprint for the film. You could also have stuck with the second part of that script, where Dolittle is a recluse, and made a movie where he gets his groove back. Or I guess you could’ve just said “fuck it” to set-up and such, and gone with a wild fantasy story where Dolittle has to outmaneuver government assassins and a pirate king played by Antonio Banderas, and then go toe to toe with a dragon. You could’ve. But you decided to do all things instead of one. What a mess you made.
Anyways. This movie is trash. You can read all about it over at Paste Magazine.