Film Review: Dolittle (2020)

Sadly falling short of the ‘so bad it is so very good’ mark, this Robert Downey Jr-led Dolittle is just bafflingly, boringly bad

“That dog is licking the queen”

At that point where I couldn’t quite lift my arm to find the remote, I ended up watching Dolittle through apathy more than anything else, ending up rather transfixed by how bad it was and hoping in vain it would tip over into something camply enjoyable. Reader, it won’t surprise you to learn it did not.

The film’s troubled production history is no secret – substantial reshoots and a ballooning budget ensured it was a commercial failure.  But what is incredible is how obvious, and obviously bad, all the tinkering is. Having lost faith in original director and co-writer Stephen Gaghan – a left-field choice to begin with – the subsequent attempts to rework it are just the worst kind of butchery.

The mediocrity leads from the front – Downey Jr plumps for a bizarrely bad muffled Welsh accent and a general air of diffidence that makes it hard to believe that he ever really gave a shit about this film. And a starry voice cast (Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland et al) sleepwalk through their ultimately inconsequential menagerie of chatty creatures.

There’s hints of what might have possibly been good but the shockingly choppy editing means we’re jerked around and kept from ever building any meaningful connections with characters. And the evident desire to make it more kid-friendly reaches its apoetheosis with the arrival of a dragon who in the space of a couple of minutes moves from terrifying slaughterer of many a soldier to cuddly fart joke receptacle, poor Frances De La Tour (‘s voice).

Jessie Buckley probably gets the best of it as Queen Victoria, who is comatose for almost the whole movie. We should all be so lucky…

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