Dolittle (film)

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Dolittle (2020 film poster).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStephen Gaghan
Produced by
Screenplay by
  • Stephen Gaghan
  • Dan Gregor
  • Doug Mand
Story byThomas Shepherd
Based on
Music byDanny Elfman[1]
CinematographyGuillermo Navarro
Edited by
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • January 17, 2020 (2020-01-17) (United States)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$175 million[2]
Box office$91.1 million[3][4]

Dolittle is a 2020 American fantasy adventure film directed by Stephen Gaghan, from a screenplay by Gaghan, Dan Gregor, and Doug Mand, from a story by Thomas Shepherd. A reboot of the Doctor Dolittle films, the film is based on the titular character created by Hugh Lofting, and primarily inspired by The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. Robert Downey Jr. stars as the title character, alongside Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen in live-action roles. The voice cast includes Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, and Marion Cotillard.

The project was announced in March 2017 with Downey Jr. 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.

Dolittle was theatrically released in the United States on January 17, 2020, by Universal Pictures. The film received negative reviews from critics for its humor and its incoherent story, and has grossed $91 million worldwide against a production budget of $175 million.


Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), is a vet who can talk to animals. After his wife Lily (Kasia Smutniak), dies at sea, Dolittle confines himself to his home and attending his animals, no longer wanting contact with other humans. One day, a boy named Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), accidentally shoots and wounds a squirrel, and decides to go to Dolittle for help.

On the same day, Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley), sends a message, ordering Dolittle to come in order to try to cure her of a deadly sickness. After being persuaded by the animals, Dolittle finally decides to go. Upon reaching her, he finds that the Queen has eaten a poisonous type of nightshade. To be cured, she must eat a fruit from a land far away. Dolittle, Stubbins, and a crew of animals put to sail, hoping to find the cure while trying to avoid Dolittle's long ago rival.

Dolittle is captured by Rassouli (Antonio Banderas), his ex-father-in-law, and is locked in a cage with Barry, a tiger only looking for his mothers approval. Just when it looks like Dolittle is in trouble, Chee-Chee the Gorilla breaks in and hits Barry. Dolittle and Stubbins escape only to be captured by Dr. Blair, Dolittle’s rival, and have their ship destroyed. After seeing a discouraged Dolittle, Rassouli loans him a boat for reasons from his daughter.

Dolittle and company arrive at an island where they meet Ginko-Who-Soars, an angry, fire breathing dragon. Ginko begins attacking before she falls due to pain. Dolittle figures what is hurting Ginko and proceeds to remove armour and bagpipes (from previously eaten trespassers) from Ginko's behind. A relieved Ginko shows Dolittle the tree with the cure. Stubbins gives the queen the plant which cures her. A walking stick bug that Dolittle left behind for other reasons, announces that Lord Thomas poisoned the queen. Dolittle reopens the doors to his sanctuary now including Stubbins.


  • Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. John Dolittle, a veterinarian who has the ability to speak to animals.
  • Antonio Banderas as Rassouli, the king of pirates who was Lily's father, as well as John's ex-father-in-law.
  • Michael Sheen as Dr. Blair Müdfly, an old schoolmate and rival of Dolittle.
  • Harry Collett as Tommy Stubbins, Dolittle's self-appointed apprentice.
  • Jim Broadbent as Lord Thomas Badgley, one of the Queen's chairman.
  • Jessie Buckley as Queen Victoria, the Queen of England.
  • Carmel Laniado as Lady Rose, a princess and Tommy's friend.
  • Ralph Ineson as Arnall Stubbins, Tommy's uncle and Dolittle's favorite shoemaker.
  • Joanna Page as Bethan Stubbins, Tommy's aunt.
  • Sonny Ashbourne Serkis as Arnall Stubbins Jr., Tommy's cousin.
  • Kasia Smutniak as Lily Dolittle, Dolittle's deceased wife.[5]


  • Emma Thompson as Polynesia, a wise and headstrong macaw and Dolittle’s most trusted advisor.
  • Rami Malek as Chee-Chee, an anxious but noble gorilla.
  • John Cena as Yoshi, an upbeat polar bear who wears a bashlyk.
  • Kumail Nanjiani as Plimpton, a cynical and fussy but well-meaning ostrich who wears stockings and quarrels with Yoshi.
  • Octavia Spencer as Dab-Dab, an enthusiastic and crazy duck with a wooden leg.
  • Tom Holland as Jip, a loyal dog who wears glasses.
  • Craig Robinson as Kevin, a crazy squirrel with attitude.
  • Ralph Fiennes as Barry, a ferocious tiger with gold-tipped fangs who has a past with Dolittle.
  • Selena Gomez as Betsy, a friendly giraffe.
  • Marion Cotillard as Tutu, a French fox who is friends with Betsy.
  • Jason Mantzoukas as James, a wisecracking dragonfly who meets Dolittle in a prison cell from which he helps him escape.
  • Frances de la Tour as Ginko-Who-Soars, a fire-breathing dragon who guards a magical fruit.
  • Nick. A. Fisher as Mini, a sweet possum (a.k.a. sugar glider).


On March 20, 2017, it was announced that Robert Downey Jr. would star in The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, a feature adaptation of The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle.[6] In December 2017, Harry Collett and Jim Broadbent were cast.[7][8] In February 2018, Antonio Banderas and Michael Sheen were cast in live-action roles, while Tom Holland, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, and Selena Gomez were cast to voice animals, including a tiger, bear, and a lioness.[9][10] In March 2018, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, John Cena, Rami Malek, Craig Robinson, Marion Cotillard, Frances de la Tour and Carmen Ejogo joined the voice cast.[11] The character of Regine, a lioness voiced by Ejogo, was cut from the finished film.[citation needed]

Principal production commenced mid-February in 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.[12]

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 helped write 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.[2] In August 2019, it was reported that the film's title had been changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle to simply Dolittle.[13]

In January 2020, Robert Downey Jr discussed on Joe Rogan's podcast (The Joe Rogan Experience) that the premise of the Dr. Dolittle character in his film stemmed from a Welsh neo-pagan physician called William Price. In the podcast he said: "Same way I did with Iron Man.. all right there's something here and then 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, so I sent that to Gaghan and he goes, "That looks good to me" and I was like "great let's do this movie"".[14]

Music artist Sia performed a new song of hers called "Original" for the end credits, while Danny Elfman composed the film's score.[15]


The film was originally going to be released on May 24, 2019, by Universal Pictures but was moved to April 12, 2019, to avoid competition with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (which was later moved to December 20, 2019).[16] It was later pushed back to January 17, 2020.[17]


Box office[edit]

As of January 26, 2020, Dolittle has grossed $44.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $46.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $91.1 million, against a production budget of $175 million.[3][4] Following its debut weekend, Deadline Hollywood estimated the film would lose the studio at least $50 million.[18]

In the United States and Canada, the film was projected to gross $20–22 million from 4,155 theaters in its opening weekend, and a total of around $27 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.[19][20] It made $6.3 million on its first day, including $925,000 from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $22 million (and $29.5 million over the four-day frame), finishing third behind fellow newcomer Bad Boys for Life and holdover 1917.[18] The film made $12.1 million in its second weekend, remaining in third.[21]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 16% based on 164 reviews, with an average rating of 3.95/10. The website'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."[22] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 27 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported an average 3 out of 5 stars.[18]

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."[24] Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy said that "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".[25]


  1. ^ "Danny Elfman to Score 'The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle'". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Borys Kit (April 15, 2019). "'Ninja Turtles' Director Jonathan Liebesman Tackling 'Doctor Dolittle' Reshoots (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Dolittle (2020)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Dolittle (2020)". The Numbers. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  5. ^ "Kasia Smutniak: «Sul set con Robert Downey Jr.»". (in Italian). June 18, 2018. Retrieved August 28, 2019.
  6. ^ Ford, Rebecca; Kit, Borys (March 20, 2017). "Robert Downey Jr. to Star in 'The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  7. ^ Kroll, Justin; Kroll, Justin (December 6, 2017). "Robert Downey Jr.'s 'Voyage of Doctor Dolittle' Taps 'Dunkirk' Actor Harry Collett (EXCLUSIVE)".
  8. ^ Kroll, Justin (December 12, 2017). "Jim Broadbent Joins Robert Downey Jr. in Universal's 'Voyage of Doctor Dolittle' (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  9. ^ "Tom Holland, Emma Thompson Join Robert Downey Jr. in 'Doctor Dolittle'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  10. ^ "Selena Gomez Joins Robert Downey Jr.'s 'Doctor Dolittle' Movie (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter.
  11. ^ "Robert Downey Jr. Unveils Voice Cast for 'Voyage of Doctor Dolittle'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  12. ^ "Hollywood film crew fixes giant pothole". BBC News. June 7, 2018. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  13. ^ Parlevliet, Mirko (August 12, 2019). "Dolittle Synopsis and New Title for the January Release". Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Kit, Borys (April 28, 2017). "Robert Downey Jr.'s 'Doctor Dolittle' Moves Release to Avoid 'Star Wars'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  17. ^ Lang, Brent (October 1, 2018). "'Voyage of Doctor Dolittle' With Robert Downey Jr. Pushed Back to 2020". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c Anthony D'Alessandro (January 21, 2020). "How Sony Built 'Bad Boys For Life' Into A Success With $101M+ WW & $73M+ U.S.; 'Dolittle' Poised For $50M+ Loss – Monday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 20, 2020.
  19. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (January 15, 2020). "Can 'Bad Boys For Life' Keep The Sony Franchise Alive? – Box Office Preview". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  20. ^ Jeremy Fuster (January 14, 2020). "Can 'Bad Boys for Life' Succeed for Sony Where 'MIB: International' Failed?". TheWrap. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  21. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (January 24, 2020). "'Bad Boys For Life' & '1917' Shooting Past $100M; 'The Turning' Slammed With Second 'F' Of 2020 e". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 26, 2020.
  22. ^ "Dolittle (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  23. ^ "Dolittle Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved January 25, 2020.
  24. ^ Courtney Howard (January 15, 2020). "'Dolittle': Film Review". Variety. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  25. ^ Todd McCarthy (January 15, 2020). "'Dolittle': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 26, 2020.

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