“Dolittle” is awful. It’s about as fun as a few rounds of chemotherapy, and at least hospital patients don’t have to undergo their treatment in a room full of screaming children, all running around and spilling their snacks everywhere. I honestly think half the audience of our packed theater was on their phones after the first 10 minutes of the movie, and under any other circumstances I probably would’ve been livid. But Dolittle deserves this kind of audience. In fact, I hope that every moviegoer that willingly gave this film money has to sit through it under similar conditions. If anything, it adds to the schizophrenia you’ll likely feel after watching Robert Downey Jr. whisper his dubbed lines while a polar bear and an ostrich take turns screaming one-liners into the camera and referencing how their parents abandoned them at children. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I suppose it was only fitting that I had to watch this movie from a handicap seat, as it would provide easy access for the EMTs to wheel my corpse away should I suffer a massive aneurism from the god-awful editing of Dolittle. But as the first few minutes of the film rolled by, I was beginning to feel that an aneurism might be one of the best possible outcomes for my moviegoing afternoon. Right from the very start, Dolittle is an extremely clunky, rushed, and incomprehensible mess of random quick-cutting shots. Our protagonist, a small English boy, is introduced with a single hand-wave explanation from the movie’s extremely odd storybook narration (that’s never explained), stating that he’s “not like the other boys” and “is very special,” despite the fact that his one character trait seems to be that he doesn’t like hurting animals for no reason. My mom won’t squish a spider either, but I’d hardly call that some kind of divine talent.
The plot starts with the main boy hunting alongside his uncle and cousin, shooting ducks in the woods. In an attempt to intentionally miss the fleeing birds, the boy accidentally shoots a squirrel with a shotgun instead, creating an extremely tiny pin-sized hole in the animal’s arm, rather than having the buckshot blow the soon-to-be-insufferable animal sidekick to smithereens. The boy then puts the squirrel in a shoebox he has for some reason, along with a tiny squirrel-sized blanket, and follows Dolittle’s parrot through the woods until he eventually reaches the animal doctor’s compound. He then spends 10 minutes navigating the overgrown grounds of the facility until he eventually lands himself in a net trap, during which a young girl who is apparently the queen’s ambassador or daughter or something shows up to ogle at him before disappearing into the compound to find the doctor herself. The boy continues to hang in the background after another 20 minutes of random nonsense as the girl attempts to convince Dolittle to help the dying Queen of England, because apparently he’s good with humans and animals. Meanwhile, the boy and his dying squirrel are still hanging from a tree until finally they are freed almost 30 minutes into the film, and at this point I was wondering how that little creature hasn’t bled out yet.
This is the first in a laundry list of instances in which the movie treats its audience like absolutely drooling morons, creating scenarios in which no person/animal would ever survive and then having them make it through anyway due to either unexplainable illogical circumstances or just being put against antagonists that are so unbelievably inept that they feel too stupid to live. I swear, I watch toddler-aged shows like Rescue Pets all the time with my niece and the villains in that program display far more competence than anyone in this movie. Dolittle’s rival in particular is such a strange character to me, as he has absolutely no reason for hating Dolittle other than the fact that they’re both doctors and Dolittle appears to be smarter than him. His constant screaming and tantrums make him feel more like a toddler or a lieutenant from the First Order than some kind of intellectual or medical rival.
I suppose this is a decent time to talk about the acting, or lack thereof. The lead child actor is pretty bad and delivers almost all his lines like his parents (or more likely the director) is mouthing all of them from off-camera. None of the animal characters are funny and almost all of them are just completely one-note stereotypes that constantly shout all of their lines over each other all at once. It’s sort of like being locked in a room with 20 screaming kindergartners that want to keep repeating the same joke over and over until you laugh. And finally, the movie’s one claim to fame, Robert Downey Jr., who I’m convinced was only on set for one day of shooting, just dubs all of his lines in ADR for more than half the movie, constantly turning his back or face to the camera. It’s so blatantly obvious that something horrible must’ve happened during the recording process of this movie because so much of the film is taken up by dubbed dialogue or random cutaway scenes of animals screaming something directly into the camera, constantly interrupting the middle of the scene.
I mentioned it earlier, but the editing of this movie is just some of the worst I’ve ever seen in anything ever. If you’re a fan of the YouTube channel RedLetterMedia, they’ve discussed a movie called “Things,” and it’s spiritual successor “Wicked World”: a pair of god-awful indie films in which almost every single line of dialogue has been added in post-production alongside a never-ending cacophony of sound effects, most of which are people screaming or farting. I’d say Dolittle is operating on about the same level of talent as these films, with the vast majority of the runtime being dominated by chaotic action scenes that constantly cut to animals yelling one-liners or getting hit in the groin.
It doesn’t help that it also has some of the worst writing I’ve ever seen in a major Hollywood production. When they’re not screaming their lines, every single character just says exactly what they’re thinking with absolutely no subtlety or genuine emotion, making most scenes a pointless chore to get through. Plot points are introduced and then promptly dropped, such as Dolittle needing a special map his dead wife made in order to reach a magical island, which is the end goal of the movie. When the villain inevitably steals it first, rather than having a scene in which the characters all come together to hatch a plan to steal it back, another character just randomly reveals that he knows where it is, making their entire expedition to steal the plans in the first place completely pointless. And seriously, who decided to give RDJ a character that is quiet, soft-spoken, and socially awkward when the man so obviously wants to exude charisma. I guess it doesn’t help that his accent is horrible and distracting, making it extremely difficult to even understand what he’s saying when he’s not inaudibly whispering his lines.
As the film rushes into its third act, things start to become completely unbearably stupid and puerile, to the point where it felt like something out of “Freddy Got Fingered” rather than a children’s movie. Dolittle’s replacement for a traditional “big final battle” is instead exchanged for a scene in which Dolittle fists a dragon’s asshole for five minutes while it blows earth-shaking farts in his face alongside excrement-covered pieces of armor and weapons. The scene goes on for so long that it made me genuinely uncomfortable, with the dragon constantly moaning and screaming while random garbage continues to fall out of its asshole, eventually ending the horrific process by shitting out a gigantic bagpipe filled with fart gas and then having the toxic bagpipe blow all its fart gas in RDJ’s face while it played a little song.
I’m sorry you had to read that, but I feel like I would’ve gone completely insane if I had to keep it bottled up any longer. Anyway, if it’s not clear to you by now, this movie is a giant dumpster fire and I have no idea how the script was even greenlit, let alone transformed into a major motion picture. It’s loud, confusing, anxiety-inducing, and downright unentertaining. If people thought “Cats” was the worst thing to happen to animals at the movies, they were severely mistaken. I’d say the scene in “Apocalypse Now” where the tribesmen slit the water buffalo’s throat was kinder to animals than this movie is. Dolittle feels like it was made by one of those spam-animated “Finger Family” YouTube bots, rather than a team of actual living, breathing humans. Avoid at all costs.
1/10 – Unwatchable