This has been much-maligned in some critical quarters – but that’s actually pretty harsh.
Because Robert Downey Jr’s turn as the legendary doctor ‘who can talk to the animals’ is perfectly passable family fun.
Granted, it’s nothing more than that – with no risk-taking or anything approaching ingenuity – but for half-term entertainment (particularly for the under eights) it just about ticks all the right boxes.
Downey Jr adds Dolittle to his burgeoning library of iconic character portrayals after (the now deceased) Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes (with the third part of the trilogy in the works), and while this might not make enough box-office ‘coin’ for a sequel, he does an eclectically-quirky job as the eccentric doctor.
Still grieving after the death of his wife at sea years earlier, Dolittle has marooned himself in his mansion full of animals – including the likes of macaw Polynesia (Emma Thompson), lurcher Jip (Tom Holland), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani) and gorilla Chee-Chee (John Cena).
But when the Queen (Wild Rose star Jessie Buckley) calls upon his services to try and cure her of a deadly sickness after eating a poisonous substance, it takes Dolittle, his young assistant Tommy (Harry Collett) and his animals on an adventure to find a forbidden fruit.
Along the way Dolittle crosses paths with old-nemesis Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen), ex-father-in-law and king of the pirates Rassouli (Antonio Banderas), and a deadly former enemy in Ralph Fiennes’ tiger Barry.
What this all adds up to is a quite uninspiring paint-by-numbers film that doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary – like Jumanji has done recently for example – but bizarrely for the most part that isn’t required.
Because it always constantly engages by providing the right amount of colourful and zany fun – particularly with the variety of animals on show – and has unfairly got a bit of a bad ‘rap’ for actually servicing its target audience in a competent way.
Which pretty much speaks for itself.
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Carmel Laniado, Jessie Buckley, Ralph Ineson, Joanna Page & the voices of Emma Thompson, Tom Holland, John Cena, Ralph Fiennes, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer & Rami Malek
Running Time: 1 Hr 41 Mins
Director: Stephen Gaghan
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