In 1920, children’s author Hugh Lofting released his first publication titled, “The Story of Doctor Dolittle.” The adventures of Dolittle turned into a series over the next three decades, even after the author had passed; the stories were published posthumously. Then in 1967, the character was brought to the big screen in the film “Doctor Dolittle,” starring Rex Harrison. 30 years later, film comedian Eddie Murphy stepped into the role for the 1998 film under the same title. Now, exactly 100 years after the release of the first book, the story returns to the big screen under the abridged title, “Dolittle.”
This film is set in Victorian England. After spending years hiding away in his animal sanctuary, Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) is pulled away from his life of seclusion when the Queen of England herself asks for him. With the Queen ill and on the verge of death, it falls on Dolittle and his companions to find a cure, but they have to hurry. For if the Queen dies, so does Dolittle’s chances of keeping his animal sanctuary. The film features an all-star cast: Michael Sheen, Antonio Banderas, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson and Ralph Fiennes.
I’m going to be upfront with my feelings. I went into this film with little interest, expecting to dislike it. After viewing, I found myself proven wrong. In fact, I’m surprised by the amount of action this film had to show. I was expecting nonsensical animal puns and gross-out humor, but what I got was a story about a doctor that can communicate with animals who goes on an adventure with his animal friends. Together, they overcome challenges as the plot moves from point A to B. After the comedy–focused material used in the Eddie Murphy run of the films, I’m guessing the filmmakers for “Dolittle” wanted to try a different spin on the story—which I applaud them for.
One disappointment I have with the story, however, is that it never delves into how Dolittle discovered he can communicate with animals. Despite a brief introduction at the start of the movie, he already has his sanctuary and group of animal friends to keep him company. It doesn’t hurt the overall plot, but it feels like a bit of storytelling that would’ve made for some interesting character development. Besides that, the animal characters were written pretty well. Most of them all have their own diverse personalities and actually contribute to the story. So they have a reason for being there, not just to act as a distraction for the audience or some random throwaway gags.
Acting–wise, there’s not much to say except one thing. It’s Robert Downy Jr., people. I’ve seen the man act alongside a talking Raccoon in “Avengers,” so he’s had experience working with talking animals.
While “Dolittle” is passable, I probably won’t be going back for a second viewing as the film is not for me. However, this is a film children and families can enjoy. For a small child, this movie has everything they’ll want—a funny doctor, talking animals and an adventure through seas and temples. Plus, accompanying parents will have a good time too, if they’re the type that enjoys a simple but wholesome family-adventure film.
“Dolittle” is rated PG for some action, rude humor and brief language. It’s a decent adventure story with some decent characters, nothing scary or offensive, and a film children and their families will have a fun time viewing. Which is why the final score for “Dolittle” is a 6.5 out of 10.
Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. He currently serves as a Journalist and Copy Editor to the Coastal Breeze News and is working on becoming a Published Author.