‘Dolittle:’ the worst thing to happen to cinema since ‘Cats’

Garrett Cook

After years of struggling with addiction and depression, acclaimed actor Robert Downey Jr. made a roaring comeback to his established acting career by playing the lead role in 2009’s “Iron Man.” Due to critical and commercial success, the film spawned a 22-film franchise dubbed the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Led by Downey, the franchise follows a group of superheroes called The Avengers and has become the highest-grossing franchise of all time, according to Box Office Mojo. Downey had the leading role in nine of the films, so one could reasonably assume his aspirations after leaving the MCU would be high. However, that would be wrong, as he decided to produce and star in a new film called “Dolittle.”

The poster for the 2020 film starring Robert Downey Junior. Image courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Crude, boring and without human touch, “Dolittle” is an expensive mistake that should be avoided by audiences at all costs. Led by Downey’s career-low performance, the film is horrendously predictable and practically unwatchable. 

“Dolittle” is set in early Victorian England and follows the adventures of John Dolittle who has a peculiar gift that allows him to communicate with animals. After hearing that the Queen of England has fallen ill, Dolittle, his apprentice and a band of animals embark on a perilous journey to find a hidden island that holds the cure to save the Queen.

Usually while watching a bad film, there is one main flaw that serves as the source of its mediocracy. For instance, a lackluster script was mostly responsible for bringing down 2018’s “Aquaman,” an otherwise entertaining film. But, in the case of “Dolittle,” every aspect of the movie plummeted in a downward spiral after the first six minutes. That said, there was one flaw that was the most recognizable: Downey’s misguided and uncomfortable performance. He plays the character as some sort of mix of the Mad Hatter and Jack Sparrow, but only combines the worst parts of each role. He stumbles about the screen toting an inconsistent Scottish accent that draws audience members right out of the film and into their heads where they wonder why they shoveled over $12 to see the collapse of Downey’s career.

Dolittle’s apprentice played by newcomer Harry Collet.

Aided immensely by Downey’s performance, the film is also overly crass and relies on humor that could be found on an elementary school playground. In defense of the film, some might say that it is made for kids, therefore allowing it to be of lower quality and to cater to three year olds. But in an age when Pixar can create award-winning animated films for kids like “Toy Story” and “Inside Out,” “Dolittle” has no excuse. In an especially unwatchable scene towards the end of its hour and a half runtime, Dolittle shoves his hand up a dragon’s butt, grabs a suit of metal armor and pulls it out which releases a fart that blows him backward at least two feet. The scene is baffling. Someone had to write the scene, multiple executives had to approve it, the set had to be built and lit, Downey had to act in it and an editing team had to spend weeks creating a computer-generated dragon butt. The infamous dragon scene is also the climax of a mystery woven throughout the story that was easily predictable from the first time it was lazily introduced.

The famous voice cast behind “Dolittle’s” animals. Image courtesy of Robert Downey Junior.

With major missteps in front of and behind the camera, “Dolittle” is a sad glimpse into Hollywood’s darker and more misguided sectors. The only redeemable quality is the knowledge that the film will inevitably lose millions of dollars at the global box office.