The Reviews Are in for ‘Dolittle,’ and They’re Brutal

Should you spend your money on “Dolittle”? Not according to critics, who — in some cases — are saying the Robert Downey Jr. vehicle is worse than “Cats.” Ouch. One critic calls it “anti-cinema” and “a calamity for the ages.”

Releasing the movie in January (often a dumping ground for bad movies) was never a sign of confidence from Universal Studios, especially after reports of extensive reshoots. The final product, with its lowbrow fart jokes, choppiness and poorly synced voicework sounds like a disaster.

A sample of reviews:

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “‘Dolittle’ doesn’t have a fraction of the verve of the similarly misguided ‘Cats,’ but it does share with that movie a staggering amount of ‘What were they thinking?’ decisions, first and foremost is the idea of setting the film in the Victorian era, but having the doctor’s chatty menagerie speak exclusively in 21st century online sass. (And it’s not just the animals; Michael Sheen’s villain at one point yells, ‘Read the room!’ at an underling.)”

Bilge Ebiri, Vulture: “I wasn’t expecting ‘Dolittle’ to be good, exactly, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this bad…. Downey’s voice has been mixed in a way that feels artificial, like we’re watching a poorly dubbed version of a foreign-language film. This is a problem for the animals as well, whose dialogue doesn’t quite match their CGI lips, and whose voices don’t sound like they’re coming from any part of the film’s physical space. Watching the movie, it felt like the voices were in my head.”

Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) and parrot Polynesia (Emma Thompson) in “Dolittle.’

Courtney Howard, Variety: “‘Dolittle’ is downright sloppy. Director Stephen Gaghan’s period-set overhaul of the literary classic proves to be as predictable as it is obnoxious…. The sheer volume of crass flatulence jokes and routines involving animal nether regions should get youngsters in the audience laughing, but will just as assuredly make the grownups groan. Once the film wears out jokes with dog Jip (voiced by Tom Holland), discussing butts and scooting on the floor, you’d think the film would’ve reached its capacity. But no, there’s still more in store, as the film stoops to include a disgruntled tiger (Ralph Fiennes) getting kicked in the crotch and a dragon (Frances de la Tour) getting an enema.”

Ty Burr, Boston Globe: “An incredible roster of talent [is] wasted on lame, slangy comeback lines of the sort you find in a ‘Chipmunks’ movie…. I don’t recall a fire-breathing dragon (Frances de la Tour) in the Lofting books, but I guess today’s third-graders, weaned on ‘Game of Thrones,’ expect no less. I definitely don’t recall a scene in which the good doctor has to perform a rectal probe on said dragon, with much comic passing of gas. If that strikes you as hilarious, by all means go with God. Otherwise, stick with the books.”

Matt Singer, Screen Crush “Dolittle’s animals buddies barely exist to further the plot, or even to illuminate the title character’s broken mental state. They’re really just on hand to provide cutesy faces for cutaways and cringe-worthy one-liners…. ‘Dolittle’ is the kind of bad movie that puts the badness of other films in perspective. The current bad movie du jour, ‘Cats,’ is bizarre and alarming, but at least it’s consistent in its presentation of a nightmarish world populated only by weirdly sexual human-cat hybrids. ‘Cats’ is deranged, but it’s still something. ‘Dolittle,’ in contrast, is nothing — except an unpleasant mess. It’s easy to imagine ‘Cats’ becoming a midnight movie, playing for decades to devotees of its oddball choices. It is impossible anyone choosing to watch ‘Dolittle’ for any reason once word gets out.”

According to Singer, “Craig Robinson gets credit for the only element of ‘Dolittle’ that sort of lands.” Robinson voices a squirrel who is mistakenly shot by young animal lover Stubbins (Harry Collett), then “spends the rest of the picture alternately swearing revenge against the kid who shot him and living in mortal fear that he will try to shoot him again.”

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