Review by Dan Skip Allen
Rex Harrison first brought the character of Dr. John Dolittle to life back in 1967. Eddie Murphy made a change in his film roles in the 1990's. He made a distinct effort to change his image. Previously he did raunchy buddy comedies like Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs, but when had children in the 90's so he decided to do more children centric roles like The Nutty Professor and Dr. Dolittle. He had a different take on the character then Harrison, but it was still the same lovable character.
Now, Robert Downey Jr. takes up the mantle. He has portrayed Tony Stark/Iron Man for over a decade now. During that time he hasn't done much else, but Dr. Dolittle is a far different role than he's ever portrayed before. It might actually be the role that gets him out of the typecasting he got within the MCU.
When the film picks up, this version of Dr. Dolittle is a disheveled shell of himself. He doesn't want to be involved with healing animals or want to talk to anybody. When an innocent young boy Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and a young Lady from Buckingham Palace (Carmel Laniado) stumble upon his sanctuary, he has no choice but to listen to their cases: one of an injured squirrel and the other of a sick Queen that needs his aid. This gets Dolittle out of his hermit stage and gets him out into the world again. The stage has been set for an adventure to get off and running.
With the ability to heal and talk to animals inevitably comes... talking animals. Dolittle captures the feeling of some of the more successful talking animal films to some extent. This version of the Dolittle story has a lot of talking animals! A Duck voiced by Octavia Spencer, a gorilla portrayed by Rami Malek,a polar bear voiced by John Cena, a dog voiced by Tom Holland, an ostrich voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, and a cockatoo voiced by Emma Thompson are just some of the voices that are featured in this film. They all have prominent roles in the overall story. They are all distinctly different from each other and set each character apart. That said, there are plenty of human characters as well. Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, and Antonio Banderas headline the human characters besides Dolittle himself. This cast was very memorable one!
Dolittle could have gotten convoluted, but it didn't. It had the right mix of talking animals and humans. The 106 minute runtime went by in a flash. The film really knew what's its focus was and it stuck to that. There wasn't any wasted scenes while also giving everybody there just do. If the behind the scenes drama was true, I didn't notice it during the film. This was a very employable experience to say the least. Here's hoping we see more Downey roles like this in the near future. He really put his unique spin on this iconic character. He even created a tone of voice that was different than expected. It took a minute to get used to, but a nice change from his normal voice. Dolittle should be a nice January surprise for those looking for an entertaining family film with a good story, some action and adventure, while also giving you some laughs.
Dolittle is now playing in theaters.