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Dr. Dolittle: A Fun, Sherlockesque Romp
Harry Lockhart. Tony Stark. Sherlock Holmes. Kirk Lazarus. Hank Palmer. John Dolittle. What do they have in common in and of themselves respectively? Nothing. The common thread is famed actor Robert Downey Jr. Lately, we have all known and loved him as the progenitor of Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. But other movies have given RDJ some well loved roles.
Most notably his interpretation of the Victorian Era British detective who uses phenomenal deduction methods for solving crimes in and around London, Sherlock Holmes. Now take that mannerism of Holmes, give RDJ a top hat and a quainter, less crime solving role and more adventurous feel with a softer accent and you have his latest flick, Dr. Dolittle. You may think it will be a fun romp (which for the kiddies, it might be). For adults, it’s Sherlock with CGI animals and kids instead of violence and death mingled with deductive reasoning.
The Story Goes…
John Dolittle is a man who can speak the language of animals and has gathered a menagerie of creatures into his home; from parrots and polar bears to ostriches, giraffes, and even a gorilla. Each creature has had their share of trauma which Doolittle alleviates. The story goes on to say that during his escapades, he meets a woman adventurer and falls in love with her.
But she dies and he finds himself heartbroken, so he breaks himself off from society. But as the rest of the world carries on, things happen that thrust Dolittle back into the thick of it all. The movie attempts to teach us the value of courage even when you are afraid, finding belonging, and ultimately that family is found in the most unlikely of individuals, even more than your own blood. It’s an overall feel good movie with a decent message for the kids.
Plot Devices Galore
If you think back to the adventure romp style movies, the thing that pushes the narrative forward are the plot devices. Most critics agree that such a form of narrative movement is the weakest form and creates further problems. This movie (to the observing eye) is full of them in the form of furry four legged creatures, finned animals, and insectoids.
And because they all are in this anthropomorphized fashion, the convenience level in this movie is astronomical. It has everything from a ship that can be pulled by whales to a dastardly father-in-law who ends up pushing the story forward. Of course the ending itself has a plot device as well and everything ends up working out happily in the end.
Verdict: Bring Kids
This is definitely one for the kids. Seeing this as a tween or even as an adult is going to leave you bored. The CGI is a nothing-burger and RDJs British acting is simply a color copy of what we have seen him do before. But in this movie, he is less charming and far less intellectual in terms of his character motivation and thus delivers a bland performance that leaves you wanting.
But the fact that he’s acting with kids and CGI animals will give your kids a ride. They’ll learn the message that it is alright to be afraid and it is alright to fail. Just so long as you pick yourself up again and face that fear head on, because you can. A simple message and one that we can even learn from. But as far as this movie is concerned, bring the kids.