Dolittle Movie Review: Funny But Forgettable

Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) and parrot Polynesia (Emma Thompson) in ‘Dolittle’ (Photo © 2020 Universal Studios)

“We have no choice but to embark on this perilous journey,” says Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr) as he and his animal companions set out to find a cure for a young, critically ill Queen Victoria in the action adventure film, Dolittle.

It’s 19th century England and the famous veterinarian Dolittle lives in seclusion behind the walls of his manor which used to be a hospital. Still grieving the loss of his wife, Dolittle wants nothing to do with the outside world. His only companions are the exotic animals that only he can understand.

When Queen Victoria falls seriously ill, Dolittle is forced out of his home and into an epic adventure in search of a mythical island to find the Queen a cure.

Dolittle is joined on this unplanned adventure by a young, self-proclaimed apprentice, Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett). A collage of his most loyal animals including an anxious and stressed gorilla named Chee-Chee (voiced by Rami Malek), an upbeat polar bear named Yoshi (voiced by John Cena), a bird-brained duck (voiced by Octavia Spencer), and his closest comrade and advisor, a headstrong parrot named Poly (voiced by Emma Thompson), also join their human friend on his adventure.

The search for the cure isn’t going to be easy. Little does Dolittle know, the former Queen’s physician Dr. Blair Mudfly (Michael Sheen) is following him determined to make sure Dolittle never returns with a cure.

Colorful, cute, and sporadically funny, Dolittle is a harmless, lighthearted adventure for families that should entertain children and elicit a few chuckles and smiles from adults. It’s reminiscent in tone to Disney family adventure films of the 1960s and ’70s such as Swiss Family Robinson, Escape to Witch Mountain, and Robinson Crusoe.

Robert Downey Jr. gives an over-the-top (which is called for, given the material) and entertaining performance as the reclusive, eccentric doctor whose ability to talk to the animals and bond with them is his greatest strength. Downey Jr.’s accent is hard to place due to the fact it seems to go back and forth between English to Scottish. But his energetic manner and his ability to act opposite characters who are mostly CGI is effective.

The film also has an excellent voice cast who give each CGI animal a distinctive and unique personality, helping to add to the humor and fun of the adventure.

Bright and silly, Dolittle is a playful and amusing adventure for families.


MPAA: PG for some action, rude humor and brief language

Release Date: January 17, 2020

Running Time: 106 minutes

Directed By: Stephen Gaghan