'Dolittle' movie reviews are in, and they're (mostly) not good

Robert Downey Jr. stars in 'Dolittle,' a fantasy-action drama that centres around his adventures with an array of exotic animals.

Robert Downey Jr. spends his time talking with animals in the new Dolittle movie and many people did not enjoy it.

The first Dolittle reviews are in, and they’re (mostly) not good at all, with Rolling Stone even saying: “Come back, Cats, we forgive you.”

The film, which is currently sitting at 13 per cent on RottenTomatoes.com, stars Downey, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Harry Collet and Jesse Buckley and features voice performances by Marion Cotillard, Frances de la Tour, Carmen Ejogo, John Cena, Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rami Malek, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Tom Holland and Craig Robinson.

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Here are some snippets of the reviews for Dolittle.

From Vanity Fair

“Those of us who survived Cats, reeling, staggering out of theaters and into the scorching glare of a new year, might not be ready for another bout with CGI animals. But the march of progress waits for none of us, and so along comes Dolittle, like it or not,” Richard Lawson wrote.

“Of course, nothing could exactly compare to the reality-bending, interdimensional journey that is Cats. This version of Dolittle (as in the doctor who talks to animals, here played by Robert Downey Jr.) is awfully tame in comparison. But there are still a few glimmers of madness to be found in this exorbitantly expensive January toss-off, which could prove satisfying for certain sickos and freaks out there who have, post-Cats, become hooked on cinematic car crashes involving digitized faunae.”

Lawson noted that even the children in the audience eventually got bored while watching the movie.

“The little ones in my audience sounded plenty enthralled in the beginning stretches of the movie, laughing when the one computer animal hit the other computer animal on the head, shrieking with delight whenever a kooky-cute new character popped up on screen. But eventually they seemed to grow restless, their engagement with the bright, frantic film waning as it offered up fewer and fewer surprises.”

From Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called Dolittle an “out-and-out disaster” that “dissolves in a puddle of botched intentions that will leave children sad and confused and adults scratching their heads.”

Travers went on to discuss Downey Jr.’s accent in the movie.

“There really is no excuse for the harm done to Downey, a world-class actor who’s sucked down into this quicksand of a movie that even Iron Man couldn’t salvage,” Travers wrote. “Let’s start with that accent: Is it British? Welsh? Scottish? Some amalgam of all three? His dialogue appears to be dubbed; at times, his lips don’t move with what he is saying.

“And when he is actually decipherable, it’s all in service of a plot that defies logic or basic human interest.

“For grownups, there is one Godfather joke. That leaves the talking animals to distract the kiddies. Good luck with that.”

From Vulture:

Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri admitted he wasn’t “expecting Dolittle to be good” but wasn’t “expecting it to be quite this bad.”

“1998’s Eddie Murphy–Betty Thomas hit Dr. Dolittle was sweet, dopey, innocuous fluff, which is I’m sure adored by many who grew up watching it,” Ebiri wrote. “And now we have the supremely expensive, Robert Downey Jr.–starring, Stephen Gaghan–directed Dolittle (though apparently others also took turns behind the camera once the project was sent into reshoots), which is the kind of movie whose incompetence boggles the mind and corrupts the soul.

“Failure this thorough has a virulent effect that reaches beyond one mere film; it makes you question the cinematic form itself.

“Is this thing uniquely bad, or did movies always suck and I’m just now realizing it? was an actual thought that briefly passed through my head.”

Ebiri also mentioned Downey’s accent.

“His rapid-fire delivery, his self-aware energy, his ability to win over an audience, should have been ideally suited for this character, but he undoes any potential goodwill by opting for an ill-advised and half-hearted Welsh accent which occasionally (and I’m assuming inadvertently) slips into Irish, Indian, and Jamaican intonations.

“The haphazard delivery naturally makes the whole performance feel slapdash, but Downey’s voice has also been mixed in a way that feels artificial, like we’re watching a poorly dubbed version of a foreign-language film.”

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From Polygon:

Polygon’s Karen Han titled her review, “Dolittle should be charged with malpractice.”

“Characters go from one place to the next with no explanation and no second thought, and even single scenes play out as if someone attacked the reel of film with a pair of scissors,” Han wrote.

Han said that trailers for movies are “meant to offer enough of a sense of a movie to entice viewers, and they typically stitch together unrelated bits of footage and pack in jokes for two to three minutes.”

Dolittle stretches that principle out for 106 minutes with disastrous results, barely holding onto a sense of coherence. It’s stuffed to the gills with one-liners delivered by CGI animals whose mouths barely sync up with what they’re saying.”

Han said that Downey’s performance “fails to connect.”

“Sporting a half-hearted Welsh accent, he’s halfway between Jack Sparrow and Tony Stark, and he fails to land either,” she wrote. “It’s difficult to blame him, though, as he’s often acting against thin air, and what character development Dolittle might have gone through (there’s a story about overcoming grief somewhere in there) is trampled to death by his animal companions.”

From AV Club

AV Club’s Katie Rife wondered, “Who is Robert Downey Jr.’s performance as the title character of Dolittle for, exactly?”

“It’s a snuffling, shuffling, head-twitching collection of tics, with a physicality that’s more evocative of a nervous squirrel than the actual CGI squirrel who accompanies Dr. Dolittle on his adventures across the sea.

“Downey’s exaggerated jerks and fits in the film recall Johnny Depp’s turn as Jack Sparrow in the Pirates Of The Caribbean movies, with one key difference: As annoying as Depp’s quirk-based acting style can be, it made sense for the captain of a pirate ship to be flamboyant.

“Dolittle is full of anachronistic pop culture references and poop and fart humor, jokes delivered in suspiciously low-impact style by the film’s animated animals.”

From The Hollywood Reporter:

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy said that “no doctor can cure what ails this Dolittle.”

“From the very first scene, it’s clear something is terribly off with this lavishly misbegotten attempt to repopularize an animal-loaded literary franchise that was born exactly a century ago,” McCarthy wrote. “The oddly diffident star and executive producer Robert Downey Jr. never finds the power-supplying third rail needed to energize a tale that fails to make a real case for being reinterpreted.”

You can practically hear little kids whining, “Mommy, Daddy, can we go now?” McCarthy added.

“On the heels of Cats, this is all Universal needed, but at least the studio will now know better than to greenlight any further critter-centric star musicals for the time being,” he wrote.

“Indeed, the director seems well out of his element with looney birds, talking gorillas and such, not to mention the finer points of the British Empire at its zenith. Along with the star’s vacant, vague performance, the desperately manic pacing doesn’t give Dolittle even a whisper of a chance of ever becoming what it aspires to be — charming, enchanting and appealing to children of all ages.

“Eddie Murphy had better luck with his comedians-laden 1998 version, which was followed by a sequel. Don’t expect that to happen this time around.”

Dolittle hits theatres on Jan. 17.

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