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Stephen Gaghan’s Dolittle is a spectacle of fakery – and that would have been totally fine if the fakery led to a heartfelt whole.
However, the film is as soulless as the talkative computer-generated animals it exploits for artificial cuteness and comedy.
A narrated animated sequence sets a fleeting mood of melancholy.
In summary, the titular doctor (Robert Downey, Jr.), who is gifted with the ability to talk to animals, loses his beloved wife to an expedition to locate a mysterious island. Sadly, the movie is unable to balance the gravity of heartbreak with the levity of the frivolity of its silly conceit, ending up more frazzled than focused. It aspires for mirth and solemnity but achieves nothing but grating disorientation. It is a fickle-minded fable.
A huge chunk of the film’s failure lies in Gaghan’s inability to merge heart and technology.
Dolittle is as impertinent as Jon Favreau’s The Lion King (2018) in its insistence that imbibing hyper-realistic digital depictions of animals with human gestures and reactions would send the right emotional signals. In reality, it is all very awkward and strange. While the stunts can be somewhat amusing, the overall impact of the film’s questionable allegiance to realism – despite its fantasy motivations – is not just not negligible, but detrimental to its desire to be entertaining.
Out of place
Downey is undoubtedly a terrific actor.
In Dolittle however, he seems out of place. He sports an indecipherable accent, exchanging clichéd wisecracks with his computer-generated co-actors with barely any conviction. His character is supposed to be grappling with prolonged grief, but he manages to conjure only half-baked expressions that do not register as anything resonating to the audience.
Everything is disjointed.
All in all, the film is nothing but disjointed voices bantering and arguing, with the expensive-looking glossy visuals serving only as a distraction to the badly written mess. The plot is nonsensical and ridden with holes, and while it is admittedly meant to be digested by children, Gaghan could have at least injected the preposterous adventure with real adventures, and not just stages for frustrating slapstick and shallow drama.
True to its title
The only thing sincere in Dolittle is its title.
The movie, unsurprisingly, does little, very little. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass.