Home / Industry / Media /  Film review: Despite its top-line cast, 'Dolittle' does very little

Robert Downey Jr leads an ensemble of animated and human characters in this latest reimagining of Hugh Lofting’s classic story of a doctor with the unique ability to talk to animals. Deeply affected by the passing away of his wife, veterinarian John Dolittle has become a recluse. Shut away in his massive estate with a menagerie of animals for company, he shuns human interaction, until the Queen of England commands his presence to help her recover from a near-fatal illness.

At the same time a young boy called Stubbins also drops by with an injured squirrel and between the two uninvited guests and demands for medical attention, Dolittle is forced out of his house and into an adventure.

The dying Queen lies teetering on the brink of death as Dolittle, his self-appointed young apprentice (Harry Collett) and his trusted furry friends, including a timid Gorilla (Rami Malek), a whining ostrich (Kumail Nanjiani) and a wise parrot (Emma Thompson), embark on a ludicrous expedition to unearth a missing diary and find a miracle plant. A medical practitioner – even a vet – sidelining allopathy for an herbal cure is truly fantasy fiction. But the Queen has enemies and Dolittle’s mission is fraught with danger.

The cast also includes top talents such as Antonio Banderas as King Rassouli, Michael Sheen as Dr. Blair Müdfly and Jim Broadbent as Lord Thomas Badgley. What a waste of talent and resources. Even the dragon (Frances de la Tour) is unimpressive.

Stephen Gaghan, whose credits include Traffic and Syriana, steps out of his comfort zone and clearly does not find his feet in a lighter, infantile live action animated feature. Downey Jr too sleepwalks, with a lazy performance than depends heavily on outlandish costumes and a terrible accent that mixes up Welsh, Irish and Scottish inflections. His interactions with his furry roommates feels like a housemaster instructing his wards rather than capturing the essence of a caring healer with a soft spot for all things great and small. The drama and narrative is so flat you almost forget this is a 3D film.

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