Review: ‘Dolittle,’ Robert Downey Jr. Starring Vehicle, Lives Up to Its Name

Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, and Michael Sheen star in the comic family adventure, directed by Stephen Gaghan. 

Created by Hugh Lofting in letters he sent home to his children during World War I, the good doctor memorably came to life in an awkward, big-screen adventure embodied by Rex Harrison in 1967, and again by Eddie Murray in 1998. 

Robert Downey Jr. now inhabits the character as a grieving widower who speaks in a strange, distinctive, muttered accent that is all but indecipherable. Directed by Academy Award-winning writer Stephen Gaghan (Traffic), the movie struggles to make much narrative sense. 

The doctor is motivated by a young apprentice to find a cure for the ailing Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), accompanied by Dolittle’s menagerie of animals, voiced by a large collection of celebrities (Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Marion Cotillard, Ralph Fiennes, Craig Robinson) and on and on the movie goes. Emma Thompson also narrates, which helps some. 

Aimed broadly at children, the film is overstuffed with visual effects, characters, and designs to mostly puzzling ends. As an adult who is well past the ‘sell-by’ date for the move, I must acknowledge that, while Dolittle is confusing and pointless, it succeeds admirably as more than 100 minutes of noise and distraction from the pains of modern life. 

<em>The film opened in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on Friday, January 17, 2020. The film is now available to watch via a variety of VOD platforms, including FandangoNOW. For more information about the film, visit the “>official site.</em>