What an amazing world is the one enclosed in Dolittle’s house! The doctor lives with all varieties of animals, from a soft flying possum to a shy gorilla, from a polar bear who loves the fireplace to a dog with spectacles, in perfect harmony and in mutually supportive relationships. This refreshing take on Lofting’s out-of-the-ordinary character, helmed by Stephen Gaghan, is a bright and lovely homage to the animal kingdom and the kind connections all living creatures are capable of.
After Lily, the best explorer in the world and the only woman who conquered his heart, lost her life in a storm, Dr John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr) puts an end to his medical consultancy and shuts the human world out of the boundaries of his house. His solitary existence is undisturbed until one day a boy with great concern for animals (Harry Collett) and a messenger from Queen Victoria herself knock on his door. Her Majesty is seriously ill, and the only remedy is a legendary fruit on an island of unknown location. The Manor – sanctuary for Dolittle’s entourage and for the man himself – is at stake in case of failure.
The doctor’s brutal outlook towards other people finds explanation in his desire to shun further emotional suffering. But the tender and fair treatment he reserves for all the animals is devoid of sentimentalism, rather characterised by an unfiltered approach and close observation. Downey Jr. makes the protagonist eccentric but deeply human in his feelings and natural reactions to accidents. The easy-going yet not empty personification that is now a staple of the actor makes this new Dolittle as engaging and pleasing as Eddie Murphy’s beloved 1998 incarnation. The humorous component is also present, although more associated with the other creatures. Among these, a very wise and bossy Emma Thompson cannot go unnoticed, ruffling her feathers as the parrot Poly. There are many other big names that join the choir of stellar voices: Rami Malek, John Cena and Octavia Spencer, to name a few. The live-action performance of Antonio Banderas, wearing the shoes of a subtly violent and somehow engrossing King Rassouli, confirms him to be smooth and charming.
While keeping the early 20th-century setting, Dolittle stays away from antiquated features, instead maintaining a vivid modern look and a sustained rhythm in this “adventure of a lifetime.” Marked by wonderful animation, it is a story that entertains and releases healing feel-good vibes.
Dolittle is released nationwide on 7th February 2020.
Watch the trailer for Dolittle here: