Dolittle Preview

As the chamber melts away, the craggy dry peaks of The Waste shine through the blistering walls. John Travolta screams in rage as a tower of melting rocks fall on top of him and Rich and Poe hear his final plea, “never forget meeeeeeee.” Together, as brothers, Rich and Poe step out into the light to their freedom. Just then they hear a weak voice behind them, “Bad Movie Twins.” They turn and see the badly burned face and upper torso of Nic Cage sticking out of the melting ruin. There is a twinkle in his eyes and a smile plays through a painful grimace. “I always knew you two would save the world… together,” he whispers, putting out a shaky hand. Rich and Poe take it. “You… you knew the whole time, didn’t you?” they ask. It must be, even though if you really think through it it probably doesn’t make much sense. “Of course,” he croaks, “I knew the only way to stop him was to get you two in the game… and now… you must help me… I’m gravely injured… there is only one cure for my condition… it’s all explained… in… *gasp*… journal… *cough*… and…” and with that he faints. Rich and Poe are badly shaken. They wonder what could possibly be in Nic Cage’s Journal (all rights reserved) that could bring someone back from so close to death. More importantly they wonder how they are going to find something they didn’t even know existed before now. “You looking for that journal?” they hear from a tiny voice. They look around but don’t see anyone. “No, down here,” it says again and when they look down they gasp in astonishment. Looks like this is the start of another wondrous bad movie twins adventure. That’s right! We are starting right in on another adventure as we do one of the only essential BMT films of 2020. What was shaping up to be a stellar BMT year was thrown by Covid, but not before delivering Robbie D. Jr. and Dolittle into our laps. Let’s walk the walk and talk the talk with the animals. Let’s go!

Dolittle (2020) – BMeTric: 44.3; Notability: 60 

(Ha, that early rating. If that isn’t some sort of proof that there are attempts to manipulate online polls early in a film’s release, then I’m not sure what is. I mean … why would early viewers of this films be like “yes! 7 out of 10, nailed it” when every indication is that the film is an unmitigated disaster. A notability of 60 is absolutely huge though, I suppose that’s what happens when you have a giant ensemble cast of famous actors providing voices.)

RogerEbert.com – 1.5 stars – It’s hard to know what, exactly, went wrong here. The concept is fine, even the adaptation is fine: eccentric doctor who can talk to animals goes on a series of madcap adventures! Sure! Nothing wrong with that! Hugh Lofting’s popular children’s book series, published in regular intervals during the 1920s and ’30s (with a couple of books of previously uncollected stories appearing posthumously), has been adapted many times before, for film, for television, animated, live action, etc. The “property” has been its own little franchise for a century now. But “Dolittle,” with Robert Downey Jr. in the eponymous role, is a wild whirlwind of a mess, without any coherence, without even a guiding principle. … “Dolittle”‘s post-production was troubled and turbulent, with other directors brought in to do last-minute surgery (if you believe the reports), and three weeks’ worth of re-shoots. That speaks to pretty severe problems. The release date was pushed back for months (usually an ominous sign). None of this would matter, though, if the confusion didn’t show so clearly on the screen.

(You know, right up until I read this review I had kind of forgotten about that. I knew about the infamous dragon fart scene at the end. But I forgot that mostly the film was slammed by critics for being so obviously edited from a pile of disjointed scenes and a complete mess of a production. Should be interesting if, indeed, it is as wildly obvious that is suggested by this review.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEf412bSPLs/

(Oh my god, I forgot about the co-opted song … one of the worst examples of it I think. It is too bad Robert Downey Jr. does the weird accent, because without it and the horrible song choice the film merely looks like a shiny kids’ movie. With those two elements though you kind of know it is going to be a disaster.)

Directors – Stephen Gaghan – (Known For: Syriana; Gold; Future BMT: Abandon; BMT: Dolittle; Notes: Directed one of the James Bond Heineken commercials. The partnership is somewhat notable in that Heineken has effectively paid the entirety of the production cost of several of the films, so hundreds of millions of dollars. Heineken claims that their internal numbers suggest the deal has netted them billions in extra revenue. Win win I suppose.)

Writers – Stephen Gaghan (screenplay by) – (Known For: Traffic; Syriana; Havoc; Future BMT: Abandon; The Alamo; Rules of Engagement; BMT: Dolittle; Notes: Won an Oscar for writing for his work on Traffic.)

Dan Gregor and Doug Mand (screenplay by) – (Known For: Magic Camp; Most Likely to Murder; BMT: Dolittle; Notes: Were writers for How I Met Your Mother most notably I think. Are tapped to write Rookie of the Year (which I assume is a remake of the 90s classic) and a live-action Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers film.)

Thomas Shepherd (screen story by) – (BMT: Dolittle; Notes: He has no notable credits and such a generic name as to make it impossible to search for information on him … I’m going to guess he’s like 20 and was given a first pass at the screenplay before handing it over to the writing team above.)

Hugh Lofting (character created by) – (Known For: Doctor Dolittle; Dr. Dolittle 2; Future BMT: Doctor Dolittle; BMT: Dolittle; Notes: Doctor Dolittle was created as part of illustrated letters to his children from the trenches of World War I. Moved to Connecticut after the war.)

Actors – Robert Downey Jr. – (Known For: Avengers: Endgame; Zodiac; Avengers: Infinity War; Spider-Man: Homecoming; Sherlock Holmes; Avengers Assemble; Iron Man; Avengers: Age of Ultron; Captain America: Civil War; Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; Iron Man Three; Iron Man 2; Tropic Thunder; The Incredible Hulk; Weird Science; Chef; Natural Born Killers; The Judge; Back to School; Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Future BMT: The Shaggy Dog; Johnny Be Good; Black and White; Gothika; In Dreams; Air America; The Singing Detective; Lucky You; One Night Stand; Friends & Lovers; Girls Just Want to Have Fun; Hugo Pool; Up the Academy; Eros; Due Date; U.S. Marshals; Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Tuff Turf; Moving In; Too Much Sun; BMT: Dolittle; Notes: Nominated for two Oscars (Tropic Thunder and Chaplin). Has played Iron Man for over a decade. This was his first non-Tony Stark role since 2014.)

Antonio Banderas – (Known For: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles; Spy Kids; The Skin I Live In; The Mask of Zorro; Frida; The Laundromat; Philadelphia; Pain and Glory; Haywire; Shrek 2; Femme Fatale; Knight of Cups; Shrek the Third; Once Upon a Time in Mexico; Desperado; Ruby Sparks; Acts of Vengeance; Shrek Forever After; Puss in Boots; Spy Kids 3: Game Over; Future BMT: Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World; Machete Kills; The Other Man; Never Talk to Strangers; Play It to the Bone; Gun Shy; The Body; The Big Bang; The Legend of Zorro; Two Much; Thick as Thieves; Automata; Original Sin; Of Love and Shadows; Assassins; Justin and the Knights of Valour; Imagining Argentina; Four Rooms; Black Gold; Life Itself; The House of the Spirits; The Music of Silence; BMT: Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever; Dolittle; The Expendables 3; The 13th Warrior; Notes: Was married to Melanie Griffith for nearly 20 years. Was a famous actor in Spain before transitioning to Hollywood in the early 90s.)

Michael Sheen – (Known For: Nocturnal Animals; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2; Alice in Wonderland; Tron; Apostle; Midnight in Paris; Blood Diamond; How to Build a Girl; Far from the Madding Crowd; Frost/Nixon; Kill the Messenger; The Queen; The Four Feathers; Brad’s Status; Wilde; The Damned United; Bright Young Things; Othello; Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer; Resistance; Future BMT: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1; Slaughterhouse Rulez; Admission; Home Again; Laws of Attraction; Mary Reilly; The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box; Alice Through the Looking Glass; Underworld: Rise of the Lycans; My Last Five Girlfriends; Underworld: Evolution; Jesus Henry Christ; Passengers; Underworld; Kingdom of Heaven; Music Within; BMT: The Twilight Saga: New Moon; Dolittle; Timeline; Notes: Welsh. He played Motzart on Broadway around 2000 which is when his career took off. Has also found television success with Masters of Sex.)

Budget/Gross – $175,000,000 / Domestic: $77,047,065 (Worldwide: $245,229,088)

(I mean … terrible, a huge bomb if you believe that budget. But not the biggest bomb in the world, and not nearly as bad as I was expecting. Maybe benefited from being one of the only films to be released majorly to theaters in 2020.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 14% (31/227): Dolittle may be enough to entertain very young viewers, but they deserve better than this rote adaptation’s jumbled story and stale humor.

(All of the reviews are about the reshoots. Everything from how you can tell the story is cut up into a mish mash of ideas, to how Robert Downey Jr. never seems to be facing the camera when he speaks with all of this lines seemingly re-recorded. Reviewer Highlight: It really is horribly inert, and every time Downey opens his mouth to say something unintelligible, the film dies a bit more. – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian)

Poster – Dr. Skloglittle

(I don’t love it mostly because it’s just a lot going on. I like an artistic theme, a color scheme, a triple beam lyrical dream… you know? But it’s got some nice font and the layout is good. So not terrible either. B-)

Tagline(s) – He’s just not a people person. (A-)

(This is certainly clever and all that. Just always a little weird to have a tagline like this where you probably have to be considerably older than the audience to even understand what’s going on with it. It’s a strange concept to think that an adult would look at the poster, chuckle at the tagline, and then when they take their kids to the movies they look and say “maybe Dolittle… it had a fun tagline.”  But again, clever, short, and a play on the plot. Overall pretty good.)

Keyword – live action and animation

Top 10: Avengers: Endgame (2019), The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Casper (1995), Jumanji: The Next Level (2019), Jurassic Park (1993), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), The Lion King (2019), Maleficent (2014)

Future BMT: 76.5 Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (2011), 75.9 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (2009), 67.3 Scooby-Doo (2002), 64.0 Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004), 60.0 Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007), 54.5 Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015), 53.6 The Smurfs (2011), 53.3 The Smurfs 2 (2013), 49.0 Hop (2011), 46.7 Men in Black: International (2019);

BMT: Dolittle (2020), Warcraft: The Beginning (2016), Pixels (2015), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), The Cat in the Hat (2003), Kangaroo Jack (2003), Cool World (1992), Eragon (2006)

(Ascendant in the 90s, a little too much in the 00s, and now just settled as a normal part of all levels of filmmaking. That’s how I interpret that plot. The Scooby-Doo films are probably the big ones we are missing from the BMT list.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 21) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Antonio Banderas is No. 2 billed in Dolittle and No. 1 billed in Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, which also stars Talisa Soto (No. 5 billed) who is in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (No. 2 billed), which also stars Robin Shou (No. 1 billed) who is in Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li (No. 6 billed), which also stars Chris Klein (No. 2 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 2 billed) => 2 + 1 + 5 + 2 + 1 + 6 + 2 + 2 = 21. If we were to watch Assassins, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 12.

Notes – Originally titled “The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle.” It was shortened in August 2019.

Robert Downey, Jr. based his character on Dr. William Price, an eccentric Welshman. Dr. Price is now a revered historical figure in Wales – there’s even a statue of him in his hometown of Llantrisant.

This is Robert Downey Jr.’s first non-Iron Man role since The Judge (2014).

This movie was originally going to be released on May 24, 2019 by Universal Pictures, but was moved to April 12, 2019 to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). It was later pushed back again to January 17, 2020.

When the movie rights went up for auction, several studios went to bid before Universal Pictures got the rights. Amongst them were Sony and Twentieth Century Fox, with the latter having previously produced three theatrical movies based on the Dr. Dolittle series.

The cast includes five Oscar winners: Rami Malek, Jim Broadbent, Dame Emma Thompson, Octavia Spencer, and Marion Cotillard; and four Oscar nominees: Robert Downey, Jr., Antonio Banderas, Ralph Fiennes, and Kumail Nanjiani.

Originally, Randy Newman was the first choice to score this movie, seeing how his uncle Lionel Newman had involvement with Doctor Dolittle (1967).

To differentiate from his earlier British characters, Robert Downey, Jr. decided to use what he described as a “passable” Welsh accent for his version of Dr. Dolittle.

Universal Pictures drafted in Seth Rogen as a consultant during pre-production when the studio executives realized that re-shoots would be necessary.

The name of Rassouli, the King of Pirates is a likely reference to Mulai Ahmed er Raisuni. Known as Raisuli to most English speakers, he was a leader of the Jebala tribal confederacy in Morocco at the turn of the twentieth century. While regarded by foreigners and the Moroccan government as a brigand, some Moroccans, especially amongst the Jebala, considered him a heroic figure, fighting a repressive, corrupt government, while others considered him a thief. He was considered by many as “The last of the Barbary Pirates” though Barbary Coast piracy had ended by the middle of the nineteenth century. A fictionalized version of him was played by Sir Sean Connery in The Wind and the Lion (1975).

In Doctor Dolittle (1967), Chee-Chee was Judy the Chimpanzee.

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