Written by Ana Jones (Dolittle)

Dolittle movie promo poster

Robert Downey Jr is as charismatic as ever and he has turned a tired classic into a modern day must see for children (and watchable for adults)! For those not too familiar with the original 1920’s Hugh Lofting books, Doctor Dolittle follows a medical doctor who can talk to animals and starts up a vet clinic when his love of them scares away human patients.

The 2020 movie begins with an animation sequence offering the backstory to Dr Dolitte’s life and getting us all up to speed why he is a recluse. Within minutes everyone is drawn into the bustling Dolittle Manor, an animal hospital and sanctuary just outside of London that he shares with the love of his life – Lily Dolittle (Kasia Smutniak), a famous explorer (and pirate’s daughter, we learn later). And, a menagerie of animals – giraffes, polar bears, mice, gorillas, an ostrich, monkeys, dogs, ducks and the narrator of the film Poly the parrot (voiced by Emma Thompson).

After Lily is drowned at sea (not actually shown), Dr Dolittle closes the sanctuary gates, vowing to never get too close to humans again, he spends his days wandering around the beautiful grounds, playing chess and talking to the animals. That is, until a young man (Harry Collett) appears with an injured squirrel, coinciding with a Lady sent by the Queen and seeking Dr Dolittle’s help. And, the adventure begins to unravel as they board a ship for parts unknown, to find the fruit of a tree that no-one has seen, dodging pirates, not-so-well intentioned English Lords and a dragon with a belly ache. 

My Biggest Criticism

Of the movie is that I wanted to get to the adventure part much more quickly, watching Dr Dolittle make animal noises to ‘talk’ to his animal friends is not enjoyable for anyone, except maybe the smaller viewers watching. The character-building scenes, leading up to Dr Dolittle finally agreeing to Lady Rose’s (Carmel Laniado) requests to save the Queen by searching for the fruit of the Eden tree took way too long. However, as the film is longer than average (sitting at about 1 hour 40 mins), so it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment and I didn’t notice that the film was longer than normal.

The language is pitched at the right level for children and adults alike. Speech is not too fast or slow. Words are simple but not plain and accents not too broad. When big words are used, definitions are explained within the story. As is the case with many Hollywood comedies, Dolittle does include a fart scene (a welcome for all the parents out there with boys!).

If you are gifted with girls, like me – don't worry, the 2020 storyline includes a Queen and lady in waiting/princess to keep them engaged too, and don’t forget the quick-witted Poly. Otherwise, my kids wouldn’t have given it five minutes!

It touches on topics such as friendship, loyalty, being scared; and, to some extent, death – all in an age-appropriate way for its PG rating.

It has a host of famous voices playing the animals, from Betsy the giraffe (voice of Selena Gomez), Tutu the fox (Marion Cotillard), James the dragonfly (Jason Mantzoukas), Barry the tiger (Ralph Fiennes) and a rather large dragon (Frances De La Tour).

While PG Rated

Here are some scenes to be aware of, if you have any particular sensitives: a child hunting and shooting a rifle (no blood or animal deaths though), pirates (lead by the charming, Antonio Banderas), sword fighting and wine consumption, an attempted mauling by Barry (as well as reference to his “berries”), dragon farting and breathing fire towards people. Oh, and the word ‘damn’ is mumbled once.

If you loved the movie Babe for its storytelling, humour and quality animal CGI – you will love Dolittle too!

It is executive produced by Robert Downey Jr and Sarah Bradshaw with Downey’s wife.

Watch The Trailer

Images: IMBd/Universal (permission pending)

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