Some amount of hyperbole from critics is to be expected, but some of the negative reviews are going to lows not even fathomable by a seasoned professional actor like Robert Downey, Jr.
Take this quote:
Though Downey Jr.’s acting is a huge part of the problem, it’s not the only weak spot for Dolittle. The overall plot is confusing, even for adults, and never comes together to tell a cohesive story.‘Dolittle’: Critics Are Saying Robert Downey, Jr. Intentionally ‘Sabotaged’ the Movie With Bad Acting
The plot is not confusing, even for adults
I found the story relatively easy to follow. So simple that I can write a one sentence synopsis: a reclusive pet doctor that can speak to animals goes on an adventure with his animal friends to save the Queen from dying by finding the healing sap of a magical tree.
That’s it, really. What’s so complicated?
Robert Downey Jr.’s Accent
Then there’s the issue of some not being able to understand Robert Downey Jr. Also, unfounded, I was able to understand all of his dialogue. I wouldn’t argue that some of the dialogue he had to work with was terrible, but even his thick, husky accent wasn’t incoherent. I can see how some would say it was a bit garbled at times, but it wasn’t like he was babbling nonsensically throughout the film.
That said, several reviews I’ve read have commented on the issue. The accent wasn’t very good, that’s a whole other subject. Was it necessary for this accent? Being understood with speech is a hugely important thing in a film, so it isn’t on moviegoers to be able to understand you, it’s you as the actor who must make it easy to be understood.
Clearly RJD failed in this regard.
A Flatulent Dragon
Ah yes, the farting dragon. There are plenty complaining about this including one of the final scenes where there’s more than farting to interaction with said dragon. I wasn’t that shook up over it. Remember, I watch horror regularly and enjoy Sandler’s odd, quirky movies and while I’m not a fan of fart gags (it’s pretty juvenile, after all), I’d rather watch a half dozen or so fart jokes than endure the bad singing and dancing in Cats.
Just me, though, I’ve seen a couple others saying this movie is worse than Cats. Got to respectfully disagree there.
This movie could have been better. A lot better. It also could have been worse. Criticism of how the story was told is fair, how some of the animals were unnecessary and some didn’t really have much to do, also fair. The CGI is another shaky aspect of the production.
If you’ve read the original Doolittle novels, they are quirky like Roald Dahl. There is a Tim Burtonesq strangeness to this story. I think some of what people didn’t like is that eccentricity. For me, it sort of fit.
At the end of the day, this has clearly been edited, re-edited and edited again. Excessive editing a film might be the worst sin committed here. More than the dragon, the accent, the story … if you over-edit a film, you will damage it. Perhaps irreparably.
Reviews by Others
Here we go, reviews by others from my reading list of 1,150+ movie review blogs of Dolittle:
- Bill Pence (3/5): “….an entertaining film for all ages based on the children’s books of Hugh Lofting.”
- Irish Film Critic (3/5): “…the anthropomorphic animal characters will appeal to children and even some adults. Once again, however, though the periodically edgy comedy hints at elements of “Shrek,” it lacks much of the keen wit that imbued the classic series.”
- Movie Talk News: “This totally awesome movie enjoy this lot people give movie five bowls of guacamole.”
- scenebymariln: “It’s very cute and fun for the most part although I wish Downey had used his own voice instead of affecting an accent.”
Not Recommended (or on the fence / undecided)
- AIPT/Shane Martin: “…might not be the strongest or most entertaining film out there, it might just provide the right amount family entertainment to be enough.”
- AndersonVision: “The voice cast borders on parody. The material has been recycled so much. But, you enjoy the lead actor enough to undertake a film like this. Plus, it’s a solid effort to adapt the source material.”
- AwardsWatch / Dewey Singleton: “…a befuddling and bewildering mess that’s barely passable for kids and nearly unwatchable for grownups”
- Bob Foster / City Of Geek (Grade: F): “is unfinished, unfunny, and a waste of the considerable talent in front of and behind the camera. It’s an awful movie”
- Crystal’s Short Reviews: “I was expecting an epic tale about Dolittle and got some crappy watered down RDJ film pushed towards children.”
- Dr. Filmlove’s Film Reviews and Rating (1.5/5): “…the weirdly chaotic and remarkably unappealing debut of Robert Downey Jr.’s post-Iron Man career.”
- Grim D. Reaper (2/4): “Much of the suggested story is more interesting than what ended up in the final cut, so if this rework does well enough, the inevitable franchise could well explore those possibilities and do that rarest of things: creating a sequel that improves upon the original.”
- Hooked On Film (1/5): “The more I reflect upon Dolittle the more problematic it becomes. I get that John can speak to animals, but how do the animals speak to each other? Do they all share in his power?”
- I Am Your Target Demographic: “This isn’t good for kids, it isn’t good for adults. It has no redeeming qualities. Go see Cats instead.”
- Jordan Woodson’s Reviews: “…besides Kumail Nanjiani with a few lines and one really well animated sequence in the first two minutes (this film should really have been an animated movie using that animation), there’s really nothing redeeming”
- Mahan’s Media: “It’s basically drowning in self-imposed whimsy, to the point where it’s impossible to take its feeble grabs for poignancy seriously, feeling like a treacle and glitter smoothie more than anything else.”
- Movie Warrior (1/5): “Young children may find “Dolittle” entertaining, but the movie is not worth the price of admission. The paid critics did not like “Dolittle”. I should have skipped it.”
Did I miss your review? Use the comments to tell me about your movie-related/review blog and I’ll follow. I like following movie-related blogs and pull quote from my reading list as well as other new blogs shared, liked and discovered.