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‘Dolittle’ Review – A Miserable Misfire

4 min read

Picture this:

You wake up one day. A fresh layer of dew sparkles the grass as a thick layer of sun warms your core. Your heart bursts with excitement as you change your clothes, hop in your car, and drive towards your local zoo. You’ve been waiting for this day for months.

Your heart beats faster as you pull through the place’s ornate gates, its front entrance screaming your name. You pay for your ticket and head into the park.

Unfortunately, what you find is nothing like what you were promised. Because while the walkways are pretty, all the zoo’s exhibits are empty. You walk further and further, your confusion building.

Realizing you’ve wasted your money, you turn to leave. Only, before you can, you notice one exhibit filled with all types of animals. There’s a dog, a gorilla, a macaw, a duck, and many more. A crazy looking man is sitting amongst them.

You gasp in horror as the animals start yelling at you. You quickly realize they’re spewing jokes. The worst part? Their comedy is horrible.

That’s Dolittle: An unfunny, disappointing film that’s as lacking in substance as it is heart.

For a film as bursting with potential as Dolittle, its unfortunate how badly it missed its mark. A movie about a man adventuring the world with his crew of animals to find an antidote for the Queen of England should be exhilarating. Sadly, the film’s excitement is entirely surface-level.

Dolittle has a couple cool sets, some visual charm, and few solid action sequences. The rest is almost completely void of anything that renders a story compelling.

A few of this film’s animals and Antonio Banderas’s King Rassouli ring slightly of memorability. And Robert Downey Jr.’s willingness to play such an eccentric role is undeniably fun to watch. All of Dolittle’s characters, however, are nothing more than convenient plot devices.

Characters rarely react as they should. And the motivations that carry the film are either weak or nonexistent.

Dr. John Dolittle himself is far from likable. Robert Downey Jr.’s committed performance can’t make up for the character’s selfish, rude, and childish behavior. Such traits that are never properly made up for.

Besides Robert, this film never makes use of its talented cast. If you want to hear the voices of Selena Gomez or Marion Cotillard, expect to be disappointed. Their respective characters are sidelined to about 5 minutes of screen time. Rami Malek and Tom Holland give fine performances. Unfortunately, their voices contrast awfully to the characters they’re playing. Kumail Nanjiani and John Cena, however, should voice act more often.

The talented voices of Dolittle deserve a funnier script. Because when it isn’t trying too hard, it’s trying too little. Most of the film’s jokes are crude, others only kids will laugh at (the movie’s climax is especially insulting).

Let it be known that such juvenile humor can be executed right (e.g., The Boss Baby, Angry Birds 2). This film, however, plays itself as something much more sophisticated than it is. Hence, this supposed comedy ends up miles short of funny.

The film’s problem with humor represents its biggest issue overall: the movie never embraces what it could be.

Dolittle could’ve been a gorgeous, funny, and touching masterpiece. Instead, it settles for the bare minimum of everything. All of the pieces are there, but none of them are connected.

The film’s color palette is bursting with potential. Its visuals were almost distinct and close-to-gorgeous. This movie’s settings were cool, but not as striking as they should’ve been.

Dolittle’s characters could’ve been great. Many had interesting backstories and the potential for an emotionally-investing arc. The film could’ve easily used its characters to portray powerful messages about fear and courage.

Instead, the movie only grabs for what’s in reach, and never for the gold just outside its grasp. Universal neglected to practice their aiming, and so made an exceptionally miserable misfire.

Dolittle could have an audience, and’ll most likely please families looking for an undemanding January outing. But I found very little to like about the film, and must give my honest opinions.

Final Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

What did you think of Dolittle? Tell us on Instagram (@appkernel) or Twitter (@appkernel), we’d love to hear your thoughts! And be sure to keep up to date with the Kernel Blog for more movie reviews!

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