Dolittle is kid friendly fun, with a not-so-small fail
There is one major fail that most adults will not catch but that most kids certainly will. If you are under the age of seven this might be a tough movie for you to completely enjoy. Sure there are plenty of fun action scenes that are very age-appropriate, but if you were a child who cannot read or struggling to read quickly the subtitles this phone will be difficult. Often Dr. Dolittle speaks to the animals in their native languages. These scenes are subtitled in the English and if you are young this will be difficult to keep up with. If you are a kid, this will mean that you are taken out of the moment in the movie repeatedly and if you are a parent, it means that you are talking with your child repeatedly during the course of the film.
Dolittle is an incredibly fun movie that I do believe most kids will enjoy. It has everything you could want in a movie as a kid looking for an adventure: action, animals, cool creatures, villains, a juvenile crush, fart jokes, life or death moments… but there is one big thing that stood out to me as the only thing my almost 8 year old would really dislike and my 4 year old would be upset with.
“A very odd boy”
One of the things I found to be very special about this retelling of Hugh Lofting’s story is the relationship between Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and Dr. Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.). Though it is against his first inclination that is born of depression and loss, the intuitive and kind-hearted ness of Dr. John Dolittle is not to be underestimated and will always prevail. He repeatedly reveals himself not to be the eccentric and gruff shell he wears but the kind of person the women in his life (his wife Lily, Queen Victoria, and Poly the parrot) believe him to be. This sort of teacher/apprentice relationship borderlines on father/son and grounds the whole adventure in a place that is familiar and fun.
“It’s okay to be afraid”
One of the themes of the movie is various characters overcoming their obstacles towards the greater good and the continuation of the adventure. Rami Malek’s character Chee Chee is my favorite example. He is terrified of confrontation and aggression despite being a very large gorilla. He repeats his mantra to himself when in doubt: “It is okay to be afraid”. The interesting thing is, the only fear most of these characters confront it was in themselves and not the wild adventure that has life altering consequences ahead of them. I love the message that that is sending.
“Remember: courage is not the absence of fear”
Despite all of the fears presented in this film, it is sweetly resolved and kids will leave the theater (adults two) feeling a bit refreshed. There is a catharsis in a pure adventure tale that does not contain curse words, violence, and adult themes. The feeling that you have escaped with your family and taken a quick epic adventure where good guys battle to save the Queen on a quest is a tale as old as time and a lot of pure fun. Just as much as the previous films made their mark, this one stands on its own with a separate identity even though there are well-known and well loved characters being reimagined.
After losing his wife seven years earlier, the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), famed doctor and veterinarian of Queen Victoria’s England, hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his menagerie of exotic animals for company. But when the young queen (Jessie Buckley) falls gravely ill, a reluctant Dolittle is forced to set sail on an epic adventure to a mythical island in search of a cure, regaining his wit and courage as he crosses old adversaries and discovers wondrous creatures. The doctor is joined on his quest by a young, self-appointed apprentice (Harry Collett) and a raucous coterie of animal friends, including an anxious gorilla (Oscar Winner Rami Malek), an enthusiastic but bird-brained duck (Oscar Winner Octavia Spencer), a bickering duo of a cynical ostrich (Kumail Nanjiani) and an upbeat polar bear (John Cena) and a headstrong parrot (Oscar Winner Emma Thompson), who serves as Dolittle’s most trusted advisor and confidante.
Rating: PG (for some action, rude humor and brief language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Stephen Gaghan
Written By: Stephen Gaghan
In Theaters: Jan 17, 2020 (Wide release)
Runtime: 106 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures