Emma Stefansky: I was dreading it. As soon as the first character posters hit, featuring the CGI animal cast and RDJ's variations on a shrug emoji expression, I knew we, as a culture, were really in for it. Months after the first trailer popped up a second one appeared, which included a dragon that was never even hinted at in the promotional material -- or, for what it's worth, in any part of the movie that did not already include a dragon. All I knew going into this was that the film suffered from massive studio-mandated reshoots (#ReleaseTheGaghanCut) and Octavia Spencer plays a character named Dab-Dab.
I struggle to come up with a metaphor that accurately describes what watching this movie feels like. It's so disjointed, ugly, and un-funny that it's baffling Universal is releasing it at all. Half of the dialogue barely matches up with the characters' mouth movements -- Robert Downey, Jr. included -- and the other half occurs only when characters are facing away from the camera, or offscreen entirely. It's like someone shot the movie without sound, realized they never recorded any dialogue, and employed a new person to add in dialogue without giving them a script. Even the action sequences, aside from an interminable one at the beginning of the movie involving a giraffe catapulting a human boy onto a ship, seem cut together from completely separate film reels. I've never seen anything like it! (You're free to use that on the posters, Universal.)
I think the biggest shock, though, was the (very pretty!) animated prologue the movie begins with, which gives us some backstory on the version of Dr. Dolittle we're about to meet, and in doing so, introduces and then immediately kills off the most interesting character in the entire movie. Dolittle was married to a sassy female adventurer who discovered a bunch of stuff and then drowned in a shipwreck. This barely matters to the plot. I'm kind of iffy on the plot at this point anyway, because it's been a few days since I saw the movie, and the last thing I wrote in my notes was, "mice are always children," doubtless the oozy ramblings of a poisoned, exhausted mind.
I feel like I'm maybe being harsh, though. Was there anything in this movie that you liked, Dan?
Dan: Yeah, killing off Dolitte's wife, who sounded like a potentially interesting character, felt very Christopher Nolan-y. That was not a part of the movie that I liked. I've also spent a lot of time looking at my incoherent notes and trying to make sense of what I saw. Looking back on the movie, there are three (3) things I really enjoyed:
- You know that scene from The Hunt for Red October, directed by god John McTiernan, where they zoom in on the lips of the Russian-speaking submarine guy and then zoom out as he starts to speak English, signaling that we're now watching a "translated" version of his dialogue? Dolittle does that but with Downey speaking an animal language early on, and when it happened I totally lost it. An incredible moment.
- There's a part where a gorilla (voiced by Rami Malek) kicks a tiger (voiced by Ralph Fiennes) in the nuts. Then we cut away to a rabbit watching nearby and he goes, "That's gotta hurt." That part ruled.
- Spoiler for the best part of Dolittle: A DRAGON FARTS IN ROBERT DOWNEY JR.'S FACE. Pure cinema.
That's about it. It's hard to overstate the number of terrible jokes in this movie. At multiple points, I found myself thinking of that Patton Oswalt bit about comedians doing "punch-ups" on movies where the studio asks them to think of jokes for characters to yell over the unfunny action scenes. Dolittle feels so punched up that the film starts to resemble a boxer's bloody, bruised face. It's brutal.
Did you have a favorite joke? Also, more importantly, what did you think of the animals?