It’s June, 1998. Eddie Murphy is Dr. John Doolittle, friend to animal-kind and father to Raven-Symone. It’s December, 1967. Rex Harrison shows his musical chops as Dr. John Doolittle. American audiences on the verge of a full youth revolt has no idea what awaits them past the Christmas 1967 movie season. It’s January, 2020. I sit in a chain theater fascinated by the fact that star-powered kid films never change.
I am trying to give a name to this brand of kid movie, but I’m stumped. There comes a time when you can see the grossest studio film that it stifles your brain. The voice cast borders on parody. The material has been recycled so much. But, you enjoy the lead actor enough to undertake a film like this. Plus, it’s a solid effort to adapt the source material.
There is something about Universal’s strategic staging of the film that says everything you need to know. Before reshoots, the film was planning its scheduled release around when Disney would drop The Rise of Skywalker. Disney moves their movie, then Doolittle would get moved by Universal. Sure, it was getting reshoots from two different directors, but the intent was the same.
Pick a bigger movie and then sweep up the remnants. Well, the left over cash that isn’t going to a Boy’s Life World War I edition. But, what about the movie? What can we take from a third bite from the apple? Didn’t Rex Harrison cover the magic of older British men talking to animals and saving the day? Hell, wasn’t the first movie a musical?
Taking a step further back, is this what we’re going to have Robert Downey Jr do outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Actors need to stretch, but people don’t forgive things like this easily. Hell, Eddie Murphy is still trying to live down Norbit. While Doolittle is no Norbit, it commits the other killer sin. Robert Downey Jr’s Victorian animal picture is boring.
Somehow, we expect the studios to drop toilet bombs over and over again on Winter audiences. After all, this is the time your parents use to go see Oscar nominees that their friends recommend to them. They might make it out to 1917 and Little Women, then call it a year. I feel bad for the art house kids that think mom and dad will want to see Parasite. If they don’t care about class warfare in real life, they won’t watch it in fiction with subtitles.
Back to the animal movie that can’t hold my attention. Doolittle made one fatal error. It tried to be high brow with its heart firmly in the realm of kids. I feel that the original cut played as an Old School adventure film, then the test screenings like Spring put a bullet in the head of that version. So, here comes the kind of film that gets parodied in Post-Modern comedy acts.
Robert Downey, Jr. is probably one of the last movie stars. There will eventually be more, but how many actors exist that can carry any story by themselves? Quick! Nobody bring up The Singing Detective, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Soloist. I want to still have a point. The dude has spent 11 years showing that he can be the linchpin in film franchises that exist beyond time and space. Why is playing a British doctor so hard?
Well, the answer is simple. Doolittle was a dated story in 1967. Now, it’s a hollow shell of a ghost of a chance to make the kind of movie that would barely rise an eyebrow on Special Delivery. There feels like a ton of egos clashed to make this film. I just want to know who OK’d the excessive amount of ADR to make this final version exist.
Seriously, if you start drinking the first time Robert Downey Jr starts talking offscreen, you’ll be dead by the hour marker. There are better ways to go out, people. Play the drinking game when this one hits Blu-ray.