|Directed by||Stephen Gaghan|
|Story by||Thomas Shepherd|
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$251.4 million|
Dolittle (also referred to as The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle) is a 2020 American fantasy adventure film directed by Stephen Gaghan from a screenplay by Gaghan, Dan Gregor, and Doug Mand, based on a story by Thomas Shepherd. Dolittle is based on the title character created by Hugh Lofting and is primarily inspired by the author's second Doctor Dolittle book, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922). Robert Downey Jr. stars as the title character, alongside Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen in live-action roles, with Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, and Marion Cotillard voicing an array of creatures.
It is the third iteration of film adaptions based on the character, after the 1967 musical Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison and the 1998-2009 Dr. Dolittle film series starring Eddie Murphy as the titular character and later Kyla Pratt as his daughter.
The project was announced in March 2017 with Downey set to star, and the rest of the cast joined over the following year. Filming began in March 2018 and lasted through June, taking place around the United Kingdom. The film underwent three weeks of reshoots in the spring of 2019, under the supervision of Jonathan Liebesman and Chris McKay after initial test screenings yielded poor results.
Universal Pictures theatrically released Dolittle in the United States on January 17, 2020. The film grossed $250 million worldwide and became the seventh highest-grossing film of 2020. Despite this, the film was a box-office bomb, losing Universal as much as $50-100 million, and received generally negative reviews from critics, particularly for its humor and story. It was nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture.
In Victorian era Britain, Dr. John Dolittle is a Welsh veterinarian with the ability to communicate with animals. After his wife, Lily, dies at sea, Dolittle retreats from human society and only tends to animals. A boy, Tommy Stubbins, accidentally wounds Kevin the red squirrel and is guided to Dolittle's help by Polynesia, a macaw.
Queen Victoria dispatches Lady Rose to summon Dolittle to help cure her of a deadly illness. He refuses until Poly persuades him that he must begin to reconnect with fellow humans. He finds the Queen has been poisoned by nightshade and the only cure is the magical fruit of Eden. Though they will need to obtain the location from Lily's journal on Monteverde. Poly, Betsy the giraffe, and Tutu the fox help Tommy escape from his home, and he joins Dolittle's crew including Kevin, Capuchin monkeys Elliot and Elsie, Chee-Chee the gorilla, Yoshi the polar bear, Plimpton the ostrich, Dab-Dab the duck, and Mini the sugar glider. They put to sail for the cure while evading Dolittle's lifelong rival Dr. Blair Müdfly.
Dolittle leaves his lurcher dog Jip and a walking stick named Styx behind to guard the Queen while he's traveling. Dolittle's boat is attacked by Müdfly, and they escape by harnessing a whale, who pulls the boat to safety.
They continue to Monteverde where, attempting to steal Lily's directions to the fruit tree, Dolittle is apprehended by Lily's father King Rassouli, and is locked in a cage with Barry, a moody tiger looking for his mother's approval. Just as Dolittle is to be killed, a newly-courageous Chee-Chee incapacitates Barry. Dolittle and Tommy escape, but lose Lily's journal to Müdfly and have their ship destroyed. Rassouli loans Dolittle a boat to honor his daughter.
Trailing Müdfly, Dolittle and company meet Ginko-Who-Soars, a dragon who guards the cure tree. Ginko attacks, causing Müdfly to fall down a hole, but soon collapses from internal pain. Dolittle diagnoses and cures the dragon, who gratefully shows Dolittle the tree.
Dolittle returns in time to heal the queen. Styx reveals that Lord Thomas Badgley, one of the Queen's chairmen, poisoned her in order to take the crown for himself, and it was he who ordered Müdfly to foil Dolittle's quest. The Queen has him arrested for treason, and thanks Dolittle for saving her.
Dolittle takes on Tommy as his apprentice and re-opens his sanctuary.
In a mid-credits scene, Müdfly survived his fall and is trying to talk with the bats, who then turn around and attack him.
- Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. John Dolittle, a Welsh widowed veterinarian who has the ability to speak to animals.
- Harry Collett as Tommy Stubbins, Dolittle's self-appointed apprentice.
- Antonio Banderas as King Rassouli, Lily's father and the king of Monteverde.
- Michael Sheen as Dr. Blair Müdfly, an old schoolmate and rival of Dolittle who gradually becomes impressed by Dolittle's special ability.
- Jim Broadbent as Lord Thomas Badgley, one of the Queen's chairmen who sends Müdfly to get the Eden Tree fruit first.
- Jessie Buckley as Queen Victoria, the Queen of the United Kingdom.
- Carmel Laniado as Lady Rose, a maid of honor to the Queen who becomes Tommy's friend and love interest.
- Kasia Smutniak as Lily Dolittle, Dolittle's deceased wife and King Rassouli's daughter.
- Ralph Ineson as Arnall Stubbins, Tommy's uncle.
- Joanna Page as Bethan Stubbins, Tommy's aunt.
- Sonny Ashbourne Serkis as Arnall Stubbins Jr., Tommy's cousin.
- Elliot Barnes-Worrell as Captain William Derrick, a British Captain Officer who follows Dr. Müdfly's orders.
- Emma Thompson as Polynesia ("Poly" for short), a wise and brave blue and yellow macaw and Dolittle's most trusted adviser who can fully speak English.
- Rami Malek as Chee-Chee, a shy but noble mountain gorilla.
- John Cena as Yoshi, a happy-go-lucky polar bear who wears a chullo because he is always cold.
- Kumail Nanjiani as Plimpton, a mischievous and critical but well-meaning ostrich who wears striped stockings and argues with Yoshi as well as carrying Dolittle around on occasion.
- Octavia Spencer as Dab-Dab, a helpful but deluded duck with a metal leg.
- Tom Holland as Jip, a loyal lurcher who wears glasses.
- Craig Robinson as Kevin, a cheeky-chippy red squirrel with a bad attitude.
- Ralph Fiennes as Barry, an aggressive bengal tiger with golden fangs living on Monteverde who has a past with Dolittle and wants to please his mother.
- Selena Gomez as Betsy, a friendly Maasai giraffe.
- Marion Cotillard as Tutu, a French fox who is best friends with Betsy and often rides on her head. She replaces Too-Too the owl who was featured in the original Doctor Dolittle books.
- Frances de la Tour as Ginko-Who-Soars, a fire-breathing dragon who guards the magical fruits of Eden.
- Jason Mantzoukas as James, a comical dragonfly.
- Nick A. Fisher as Mini, a cute sugar glider.
- Tim Treloar as Humphrey, a humpback whale that Dolittle enlists.
- Jim Carretta as Arthur, a bearded mouse who was in Dolittle's beard before it was shaved off.
- Carretta also voices Leona, an octopus belonging to Queen Victoria.
- Ranjani Brow and Kelly Stables as Mice
- Scott Menville as Army Ant
- David Sheinkopf as Don Carpenterino, the boss ant who is Dolittle and James' contact on Monteverde.
- Will Arnett as a hare in one of Rassouli's prison cells who wears an eyepatch and is a friend of Barry (uncredited).
Baby animals are voiced by Gia Davis, Henry Holcomb, Kyrie Mcalpin, and Isley Zamora.
On March 20, 2017, it was announced that Robert Downey Jr. would star in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, a feature adaptation of Hugh Lofting's second published Dolittle book, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. In December 2017, Harry Collett and Jim Broadbent were also cast, in live action roles. In February 2018, Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen were added to the live action cast, while Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, and Selena Gomez were cast to voice animals, including a tiger, bear, and a lioness. In March 2018, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, John Cena, Rami Malek, Craig Robinson, Marion Cotillard, Frances de la Tour and Carmen Ejogo all signed on for voice roles as well. The character of Regine, a lioness voiced by Ejogo, was cut from the finished film.
Principal production commenced mid-February 2018. Live-action scenes began filming in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria in May 2018, with further location filming at South Forest, Windsor Great Park and on the Menai Suspension Bridge in North West Wales, in June 2018.
In April 2019, it was reported the film had undergone 21 days of re-shoots following poor test screenings. Director Jonathan Liebesman helped to oversee the filming alongside Gaghan, while Chris McKay wrote new material after it became clear from first cuts that the comedy elements of the film were not coming together as well as the producers had hoped. Prior to this, Universal had turned towards Seth Rogen and Neighbors co-writer Brendan O'Brien to help add comedy to the film. However, neither could remain committed to the project and dropped out. McKay was assigned to storyboard sequences and assemble different edits before later leaving to instead direct The Tomorrow War. Liebesman took over McKay's duties and finished the film alongside Gaghan. The Lego Batman Movie scribe John Whittington had also performed rewrites on the script amid reshoots, and flew to London to meet with Downey, who allegedly tore Whittington's script apart in favor of "new ideas." The Hollywood Reporter stated that despite a "challenged production," there were no fights for power and no competing cuts for the film. In August 2019, it was reported that the film's title had been changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle to simply Dolittle.
In January 2020, on Joe Rogan's podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, Downey Jr. discussed the inspiration for the Dr. Dolittle character in the film, which he said stemmed from a Welsh neo-pagan physician called William Price. He said, "Same way I did with Iron Man... before I signed on, I was just googling 'weirdest Welsh doctor,' I just wanted to think of, I don't want to just do another English accent.. so there was this guy called William Price, who's a nutty Welsh doctor, he was a neo-druidist, he believed that he could communicate with all nature and all that stuff, so I sent a picture of this wild looking guy wearing this kind of suit with stars on it and like a staff in his hand [to Gaghan]... and he goes, "That looks good to me" and I was like "great let's do this movie.""
The film was released by Universal Pictures. It was originally set for May 24, 2019, but was moved to April 12, 2019, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which itself was later moved from May to December 20, 2019. The film was later moved again to January 17, 2020.
Dolittle grossed $77 million in the United States and Canada, and $174 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $251 million, against a production budget of $175 million. Due to its high production and marketing costs, The New York Observer estimated that the film needed to gross over $500 million worldwide to break even; following its debut weekend, it was estimated the film would lose Universal between $50–100 million.
In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Bad Boys for Life, and was projected to gross $20–22 million from 4,155 theaters in its three-day opening weekend, and a total of around $27 million over the full four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. It made $6.3 million on its first day, including $925,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $22 million for three days, and $29.5 million over the four-day frame, finishing second, behind Bad Boys for Life. The film made $12.1 million in its second weekend and $7.7 million in its third, remaining in second both times.
After months of delays, the film was released in China on July 24, and made $5.2 million from about 3,000 screens in its opening weekend. By August 6, the film had reached $14.6 million in grosses in the country.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 14% based on 236 reviews, with an average rating of 4/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Dolittle may be enough to entertain very young viewers, but they deserve better than this rote adaptation's jumbled story and stale humor." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 26 out of 100, based on 46 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported an average of 3 out of 5 stars from viewers they surveyed.
Courtney Howard of Variety called the film a "frenetic, crass kids' flick" and wrote, "What should have been an awe-filled adventure quickly curdles into an awful one, thanks to a pedestrian formula and the filmmakers' fixation on fart jokes." Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy said, "From the very first scene, it's clear something is terribly off with this lavishly misbegotten attempt to repopularize an animal-loaded literary franchise that was born exactly a century ago. The oddly diffident star and executive producer Robert Downey Jr. never finds the power-supplying third rail needed to energize a tale that fails to make a real case for being reinterpreted."
British critic Mark Kermode gave the film a negative review, saying, "Terrible script. Terrible visuals. Dull plot. Dismal gags. The fact (is) that at 101 minutes it really tested one's patience. It is shockingly poor." He particularly criticized Robert Downey Jr.'s attempt at a Welsh accent, calling it "something from Mars." In examining the film's ending, Douglas Laman of Screen Rant noted that the film as a whole suffered from numerous problems, including "...Dolittle's new backstory involving a deceased wife...the largely lifeless voice-over work of the animal characters [and] its painfully unfunny comedy."
|Costume Designers Guild Awards||April 13, 2021||Excellence in Fantasy Film||Jenny Beavan||Nominated|||
|Golden Raspberry Awards||April 24, 2021||Worst Picture||Joe Roth, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Susan Downey||Nominated|||
|Worst Director||Stephen Gaghan||Nominated|
|Worst Actor||Robert Downey Jr.||Nominated|
|Worst Screenplay||Stephen Gaghan and Dan Gregor & Doug Mand;
Based on the character by Hugh Lofting
|Worst Screen Combo||Robert Downey Jr. and his utterly unconvincing "Welsh" accent||Nominated|
|Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel||Won|
|Kids' Choice Awards||March 13, 2021||Favorite Movie||Nominated|||
|Favorite Movie Actor||Robert Downey Jr.||Won|
|People's Choice Awards||November 15, 2020||Family Movie of 2020||Nominated|||
|Male Movie Star of 2020||Robert Downey Jr.||Nominated|
|Set Decorators Society of America Awards||March 31, 2021||Best Achievement in Décor/Design of a Comedy or Musical Feature Film||Lee Sandales and Dominic Watkins||Nominated|||
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