Review: There's an enjoyable film buried somewhere in 'Dolittle'

(from left) Lord Thomas Badgley (Jim Broadbent), Dr. Blair Müdfly (Michael Sheen), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), dog Jip (back to camera, Tom Holland) and Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) in "Dolittle," directed by Stephen Gaghan. (Photo: Universal)

2.5 out of 5 Stars
Stephen Gaghan
Writer: Stephen Gaghan, Dan Gregor, Doug Mand, Thomas Shepherd, Hugh Lofting (character)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG for some action, rude humor and brief language

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Following the death of his beloved wife, Dr. John Dolittle, a man with an uncanny way of understanding animals, locks himself away from the world.

Review: Robert Downey Jr. stars and acts as an executive producer on this new take on Hugh Lofting’s stories about John Dolittle, a doctor who has mastered the art of speaking to and understanding animals. Dolittle has, however, lost interest in and connection with humans and spends his unkempt days locked away in his London nature preserve playing chess with his best friend Chee Chee, a fearful gorilla.

Dolittle’s self-awarded exile is interrupted when two children, Tommy Stubbins and Lady Rose, appear on his doorstep. Stubbins has come in hope that Dolittle will save the life of a squirrel he accidentally shot. Lady Rose has come on behalf of the Queen, who is dying.

What follows is a wild adventure that sees Dolittle traveling to the ends of the world to find a mysterious fruit with cure-all properties. There’s fun to be had, but the film’s momentum is often stalled by the incessant talking animals.

“Dolittle” would do better to drop half of its dialogue and let the visual wonders of cinema do the talking. Of the animals, only Poly (voiced by Emma Thompson) needs to speak in English. With every other animal speaking in their natural barks, squeaks and squawks. This might negate the stunt casting of known celebrities to voice the creatures, but it would remedy the film’s terrible and unnecessary dialogue.

That, however, was never going to happen. Once the decision was made to voice the various animals by high-profile actors and bankrolled, Universal was never going to drop the likes of Rami Malek, John Cena, Tom Holland and Selena Gomez off the marquee. Not even if it makes the movie infinitely better.

So, we’re left with a film that is more annoying than it is entertaining. There’s a fun movie somewhere in “Dolittle,” it’s just covered up by poor writing and bad production decisions.