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article imageReview: ‘Dolittle’ is fluent in dog and fun Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 17, 2020 in Entertainment
‘Dolittle’ is a change of pace for Robert Downey, Jr. as he plays a doctor who can speak to animals and must emerge from seclusion to complete a vital mission.
Even though we know animals probably don’t think the way we do, it’s nonetheless fun to project human reasoning and emotions onto them. People have imaginary/one-sided conversations with their pets and add humorous narrations to nature videos. Consequently, anthropomorphism is very prevalent in fiction as animals can be used to tell stories of social commentary as well as entertaining ventures. The more amusing narratives usually fall into the drama or comedy category, and have been presented in live-action, animated and the ever more popular CGI formats. Dolittle is a mix of these as it puts its personal twist on the tale of a doctor who can speak to animals.
Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey, Jr.) was a renowned physician and adventurer. He treated humans and animals alike, but the key to his mending the latter was his ability to speak to and treat them based on the symptoms they described. He found a like-minded woman to marry and they, along with their menagerie of companions, traveled the globe, discovering and healing. However, when she died, he retreated from the world. But now, years later, a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), who also has a special connection to animals, and Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), who was Dolittle’s greatest supporter, need the doctor’s help. Seeing no other choice, Dolittle and his animal companions set out on a voyage to find an elusive tree with magical abilities that could help everyone.
Where Eddie Murphy's Dr. Dolittle centred on the hilarious mishaps one incurs when every animal in the vicinity discovers you can understand them, this movie is an adventure that rests on the notion that Dolittle can speak to animals – in their native tongues. Interestingly, when Dolittle and the animals appear to be speaking to each other in English, it’s essentially a dub as they are actually speaking to each other in dog, gorilla or whatever language is native to the specific species so that no one around them knows what either creature is saying. It’s a mystery how he gained this ability, but it does allow for a stellar voice cast that includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes and Selena Gomez. On the human front, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent and Antonio Banderas each have their roles to play in the journey.
The advancements in CGI have made these types of pictures more common as it affords greater flexibility while maintaining a sense of realism. The artificially-generated creatures look almost real, but are much better at taking direction and acting for the scene. This also allows the narrative to be more exciting and for all the characters to interact/react more. Dolittle has several non-human companions, including a dog, gorilla, parrot, polar bear, sugar glider and stick insect, each with their own personalities, fears and expertise. Downey, Jr. is unquestionably enjoyable, but the animals can’t help but steal the show… particularly the giant kitty.
Dolittle is the complete opposite of Iron Man — though both can be a little surly — allowing Downey, Jr. to demonstrate he’s still got some tricks up his sleeve. This family-friendly fair isn’t breaking any records, but it is a fun way to spend a couple of hours.
Director: Stephen Gaghan
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen
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