Dolittle Recap

Jamie

Ready to walk with the animals, talk with the animals, grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals? Good cause Dolittle is back on the scene trying to save the Queen of England from a mysterious illness with the help of the magical Fruit of Eden. Can he get the fruit, stop the eeevil Dr. Mudfly, and make some friends along the way before it’s too late? Find out in… Dolittle.

How?! Dr. Dolittle is just a sad sack living all alone in his mansion when his life is turned upside down by Tommy, a down on his luck kid who wants to be his apprentice. Helping bring back the spark to Dolittle’s life (which hasn’t been the same since the death of his lady love, Lily), he agrees to help Lady Rose save Queen Victoria from a mysterious illness. How? The magical Fruit of Eden of course. One problem. The fruit’s location is unknown except for in Lily’s diary, which is kept by her terrifying father King Rassouli, the king of the thieves. Fun. Heading out, Doolittle at first tries to keep Tommy out of the danger of the adventure, but he is too plucky and persistent and soon is friends with all the animals and a veritable animal expert. On their way they are attacked by the evil Dr. Mudfly, a rival of Dolittle who is trying to save the Queen himself for the glory. Fortunately, with the help of Tommy, they are able to escape and arrive at the island of the thieves. He and Tommy attempt to infiltrate the Rassouli’s fortress, but are caught and Dolittle is sentenced to death by tiger. Getting word to their animal friends, Dolittle is saved by their friendship and courage. Awww. Unfortunately, after stealing back the diary, Mudfly ambushes them and snatches it away, sinking their boat in the process. Boo. Rassouli, realizing the love that Dolittle had for his daughter, decides to give them a boat in order to get the diary back. Using some whales to follow Mudfly, they are able to make it to the mysterious island of the Fruit of Eden, where they encounter the dragon who guards it. Mudfly is dispatched by the dragon, but Dolittle is able to figure out that really it’s just got a rumbly in its tumbly and performs a manual disimpaction of its bowels (this is real). Satisfied with its newly emptied bowels, the dragon lets Dolittle take the Fruit of Eden. Back in England he is able to save the Queen just in time and reveal that she was actually poisoned (gasp!) by one of her advisors. Dolittle and Tommy then live their days treating animals and adventuring. THE END. 

Why?! I guess I haven’t mentioned it yet, but the backstory is that for his services to the crown Dolittle was granted a manor of some kind by the Queen “for life.” He didn’t understand that this meant the Queen’s life, so saving her life is not just for God and country, it’s also so that he doesn’t lose his home (and more specifically the place where his animal friends live happily). Tommy on the other hands just wants to be happy by being an animal doctor cause he loves animals. It’s sweet.

Who?! Good film for the sheer number of famous people who are doing at times very minor voice work. The most notable for this purpose is Selena Gomez who plays a random giraffe that I barely remember doing much in the film really. She’s best friends with a fox voiced by Marion Cotillard. Interesting pairing. Jessie Buckley also plays Queen Victoria, which I would say is a rare depiction in BMT except we just saw her in Holmes & Watson not that long ago.

What?! Classic MacGuffin in this one with the Fruit of Eden. Ah yes, a mysterious illness, we need the Fruit of Eden that can cure anything for vague reasons. Where is it? It’s a mystery, just like the mysterious illness and mysterious way the fruit works. Also, we don’t know how to get it once we find it… that’s also a mystery. But trust me, you’ll love it once we have it.

Where?! You can really only point to England here as the rest of the film takes place on the high seas or on imaginary islands. But England does have a nice role as we spend some time waiting on the ill Queen amidst Victorian England and on occasion espy one of the famous landmarks. B+.

When?! Online it claims this took place in 1819, which seems impossible since he is supposed to save Queen Victoria, who was born that year. It makes more sense if it lines up with the novel The Voyage of Dr. Dolittle, which took place in 1839. Dolittle getting his manor and Lily’s death would have to be relatively recent in that case, but not out of the question. The weirdest part is that they randomly show a solar eclipse occurring in London right before the final scene of the film… which doesn’t line up with any real event. Not sure why it’s even in the film. D-.

Mixed feelings on this one as the film is sweet and the animals kinda fun and kooky. Mudfly and some of the animals are also written in an oddly absurdist way that was funnier than the film probably deserved. Not really sure what Robby D was doing with his accent (I think he was doing Welsh), and he dominated the screen at times and not in a good way, but still understandable up to a point. That point is about halfway through the film when things just fall apart. By the time they reach the island of the Fruit of Eden there seemed to be so many reshoots or something that the film became legit hard to follow. Like they are about to be killed by a dragon who randomly flops over and Dolittle is like “oh I get it you are sad and that means your guts are all twisted up,” and then the dragon farts and stuff and they get the fruit… fo real. So… I guess if you don’t mind ⅔ of a watchable kids comedy and ⅓ gastrointestinal instructional video then you are in luck. Patrick?

Patrick

‘Ello everyone! Despite the covid related audible to “anniversary films”, the cycle will also purport to watch the qualifying 2020 films (of which there are sadly few). And so, given that it is probably the biggest bomb of the year, Dolittle was a must. Let’s go!

P’s View on the Preview – I mentioned it several times in the preview, but I had mostly forgotten about all of the production troubles this film very publicly had. And then watching the trailer, woof, it is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen! Being a kids’ film it could have been merely dull, but there was abundant evidence that we’d at least see an abomination of uneditable garbage on screen. So that’s fun. What were my expectations? A chopped to shit pile of disparate film clips masquerading as a film.

The Good – There are moments during the film where you are looking at it and thinking “wow … this is really beautiful.” As a light and fluffy diversion for young kids it could have even been rather successful as it leans very charmingly into its bright-and-colorful palette. And a couple of the performances are even rather fun, most notably Michael Sheen as the bad doctor trying to stop Dolittle for various reasons, and Jason Mantzoukas who is a delight as a kind of dumb dragonfly. Best Bit: Probably Michael Sheen. 

The Bad – It is an uneditable pile of garbage, that bit is very true. But probably the worst bits of the film are just the performances in general. I don’t want to harp too much on the kid actors (Harry Collett and Carmel Laniado) who obviously do their best, but I just have no idea what Robert Downey Jr. was thinking with his mopey odd-ball interpretation of Dr. Dolittle. His generally morose unkempt version of the character is a complete distraction for the entire first act. Probably the biggest crime I think is the lackluster use of the pirate island ruled by King Rassouli (Antonio Banderas) … they build an entire Hook-like world up, and then barely show us any of it (probably because they were editing together a film from a totally different film). It was really distressing. Fatal Flaw: Horrible version of Dolittle by Robert Downey Jr.

The BMT – I don’t necessarily think I’ll remember this film much in the coming years. Neither will anyone else I imagine. They’ll never make a sequel, people will forget about it, and then another Dr. Dolittle will come out in a decade, and we’ll probably also watch that for BMT because it turns out most Dr. Dolittle films aren’t very good it seems. Are we going to still be doing BMT in a decade? Don’t make me get all existential about this, let’s assume so. Did it meet my expectations? Yeah, it actually exceeded them in a way. It is far far more apparent that the film was constructed from various unconnected scenes that I can remember ever seeing. Doesn’t mean the film is any good as a bad movie though. It isn’t.

Roast-radamus – I’ll throw a little shoutout for Setting as a Character (Where?) for England, where, in order to knock Dolittle out of his rut, the queen herself must be threatened! Absolutely incredible MacGuffin (Why?) for the mysterious fruit of the Eden tree, guarded by a dragon on the island of Dolittle’s late wife’s birth, which just so happens to be the only known cure for deadly nightshade. That’s some MacGuffin! This will qualify mostly in the Live! category, although it is closest to BMT otherwise.

StreetCreditReport.com – These are obviously impossible to do for films that came out this year. But if you snoop about you’ll find plenty of articles about how Robert Downey Jr. pulls a full suit of armor and some bagpipes out of a dragon’s anus, and then you’ll realize why critics were somewhat distressed while watching this film. Given the severe lack of qualifying films in the year of covid, Dolittle will reign supreme as the worst of the year. This is a virtual certainty.

You Just Got Schooled! – Staring into the abyss that is the prospect of (re)watching the 1967 Dolittle film, I was distraught. It isn’t that I disliked the film, I had just seen it before and it is a brutal two and a half hours. But luckily there was a cartoon made right afterwards! Made in 1970, Dr. Dolittle was made by DePatie–Freleng Enterprises who notably created The Pink Panther. Also notable is that the series tends not to be released to home video because of a pretty racist band of racial stereotypes … er, pirates. Also apparently because the cricket band is thought to promote drug use? Yeah I don’t buy that second one, but the show is pretty racist, that one is true. I just watched the first episode. Amazingly they have the same (Oscar winning) song as the theme for the show. And also oddly the show appears to be a musical as well (that’s why there is a cricket band). Mostly it is a pretty light affair with a very clear formula: the pirates want to have the ability to talk to animals to control the high seas, and Dr. Dolittle barely notices their escapades as he tries to help the various animals of the world. Never show this to children though … you know, because of the racism. D, just generic kind of blah stuff with a generous dose of racism to really sink that score.

Cheerios,

The Sklogs

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