Gretchen Lee — Staff Writer
I had the lowest of expectations going into my viewing of Doolittle; a movie about talking CGI creatures and Robert Downey Jr. making weird animal noises didn’t seem to offer a lot of promise. However, while this movie had some of the weirdest scenes I have ever seen in a movie, Downy and the rest of the supporting cast managed to make them feel much more natural than what should have been possible, producing a movie that is delightfully quirky, entertaining, and heartfelt.
After the death of his beloved wife in a tragic shipwreck, Dr. John Dolittle closes the doors of his animal sanctuary and secludes himself away from the rest of humanity. Many years later, a young boy and girl find Dolittle’s estate. The girl, Lady Rose, has come to bring Dolittle to London in the hopes of saving the dying Queen Victoria and the boy, Tommy Stubbins, seeks help in healing a squirrel he accidentally shot. After a significant amount of convincing, the squirrel is healed and Dolittle hurries to London. After evaluating the queen, he realizes that she has been poisoned and that the only antidote is a fruit from the island Mrs. Dolittle was seeking when her ship sank. Tommy, Dolittle, and a group of charismatic animals sail away in search answers.
This movie has both its flaws and its merits. The storyline doesn’t contain significant substance, some characters are a bit underdeveloped, and a few scenes are just so weird that they are hard to get past. For example, there are several scenes when Dolittle is teaching Tommy to speak animal languages that were somewhat funny at first but became stranger as the movie went on. Another scene that was more than a bit over-the-top was the scene where Dolittle removes a set of bagpipes from a dragon’s rectum. Yes, that is an actual scene in this movie. Yes, it was just as uncomfortable as it sounds.
Besides these quirks, however, Dolittle is a very endearing movie that is wonderful for kids and adults (at least, ones who aren’t picky with their movies) alike. Dolittle learns throughout the course of the film to process his grief for his wife and eventually helps another character through the same process. The gorilla that Dolittle cares for learns to overcome fear in a realistic way: protecting his friends and receiving gentle but firm encouragement along the way. Tommy learns to embrace his gentle, empathetic side despite his father’s attempts to get him to “man up.” Overall, what this movie lacks in story and class was made up for in character and moral.
Being a largely CGI movie, I doubted how well the talking animals would look on screen, particularly after the flop of the “live action” The Lion King. Dolittle’s CGI wasn’t perfect, but the acting done opposite of the CGI animals was done well enough that it was easy for the audience to forget that they were animated. The scenes and backdrops built using greenscreens were absolutely beautiful and added a wonderful whimsey to the movie that perfectly matched the theme and score.
While Dolittle wobbles dangerously close to being too quirky and lacks a solid storyline, the wonder, theme, and characters of this movie were delightful and wholesome. Overall, Dolittle is certainly not a great movie, but it is a good one. It meets the purpose for which it was created: to be a kids’ movie that encourages imagination and facing the emotions that we try to repress.