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Neil Soans
Neil SoansJan 16, 2020
Times of India

The adventure of Dr John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), who speaks to animals. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) lives a happy life as a doctor and veterinarian residing on a large estate along with rescued and adopted animals, in Victorian England. But when his wife Lily dies, he becomes a hermit, cutting himself off from human interaction. During that time, Dolittle hones his communication skills with the animals. But he is called to duty once again when the Queen becomes gravely ill, and the future of the estate is at stake. Dolittle and his animal companions must embark on an adventure to save the Queen and their home. The film starts with a lot of promise, especially when we’re introduced to John Dolittle and his motley crew of animals. Each creature is given a distinct personality and role to play within this odd family of sorts. They’re all inherently charming due to the visual designs which embody their characteristics, and thanks to the voice actors playing them. Standouts include Emma Thompson as Poly – a maternal figure for Dolittle; Kumail Nanjiani as Plimpton – Dolittle’s reluctant and often cowardly steed, and Octavia Spencer as Dab-Dab – Dolittle’s assistant who mistakes vegetables for his medical equipment. Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen are at their scenery-chewing best as the colourful King Rassouli and textbook villain Mudfly, respectively. It’s easy to see how these quirks make for running gags and countless jokes, and the film certainly has a lot of them. Not all of them work, but they often bring a smile to the face, if not outright laughs. But, the film prefers to rely on that instead of an engaging plot to keep audiences invested. There isn’t much character development to speak of, which is a huge missed opportunity considering all the talent at hand. This is most apparent with Robert Downey Jr in the lead role. Despite the actor’s undeniable charisma and his spirited take, Dolittle’s arc feels remarkably under-explored. The problem seems to lie with Stephen Gaghan’s vision as a director, who appears to be out of his depth handling the overabundance of characters while weaving a cohesive narrative. Additionally, patchwork in the form of reshoots and redubbing is quite apparent, with Downey Jr’s dialogues visibly out of sync. Technicalities and screenplay aside, the tonality is fun and bubbly, and as far as a family film goes, ‘Dolittle’ is sure to be a hit with kids, who seem to be the film's target audience.Read full review

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