Dolittle (2020)

SPOILERS FOR A MOVIE STILL IN THEATERS

NOT SPOILING THE ENDING BUT WILL TALK ABOUT A SEVERAL PLOT POINTS

Children’s movies are a strange beast to talk about, mainly because the people doing the talking are not the target audience. If you call such a movie “simple” or “juvenile,” well… that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Anyway, Doolittle is certainly not the worst kid’s movie I’ve ever seen–I’m sure a good number of kids had fun watching this–but it’s not going to be all that enjoyable for adults.

Our story begins with a flashback narrated by Mrs. Emma Thompson, playing a parrot in the movie, explaining that once upon a time Dr. Dolittle (Mr. Robert Downey Jr.) had a wife and a great life, but then she died. Up had the same prologue with far more emotional impact, but really all this is just so that the movie has Dolittle be reluctant to progress the story. It’s basically padding and kind of felt like there were plans for a prequel (or even a sequel where it’s revealed she’s not dead). Anyway, the main plot is that the Queen of England (Victoria, although I don’t know if the movie ever specifies) is dying and only Dolittle, his menagerie of animals, and an audience surrogate/kid companion can save the day.

The best parts of the movie, by a wide margin, are the villains. Michael Sheen’s character is both sinister and bumbling, two roles that he has played multiple times over the years and has perfected. Of the few laughs I had, most were because of him. Antonio Banderas as a pirate king is pretty good too, giving this downright snarling performance. The rest of the human characters are… well they are certainly present and certainly reading their lines. Fairly well, most of the time!

The animals–arguably the main draw of the movie–are a real mixed bag. There’s just too many of them, so some like Emma Thompson parrot and (deep, soul-crushing sigh) John Cena polar bear get lines and some character beats, but others like Octavia Spencer duck (wasn’t this a Saturday Night Live skit?) and Craig Robinson squirrel are just… there. Hell, the squirrel starts off with a vendetta against the kid companion, but it goes nowhere; he instead just gives situation reports every so often that he’s becoming friendly with the other animals, even though we don’t see any of that happening.

And no review of the movie would be complete without talking about the infamous “pulling bagpipes out of a dragon’s ass and the ridiculously long fart” scene. And… honestly? It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had anticipated. The fart was only, like, 5 seconds long. I’ve seen/heard worse farts, and that’s basically my tagline for the movie as a whole. And that’s all I have to say. The end.

…nope! NOPE! I thought I was done but I can’t end this review without talking about Jeff! There’s no good place for this, so a tacked-on postscript will have to do. Late in the movie after Dolittle gets his second ship, there’s a short scene where the remove a tarp from the deck to reveal a human prisoner in a pillory (as versus stocks, I actually Googled the difference), who says something along the lines of, “I’m Jeff!” AND THEN WE NEVER SEE OR HEAR FROM HIM EVER AGAIN. Who was he? Why was he imprisoned on this previously abandoned ship? How long had he been there? What happened to him? Did they drop him back off on Pirate Island or whatever it was actually called? Why does this incredibly short sequence haunt me days later? The world may never know.


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